As leaders, we need to create a culture where team members feel safe, valued, respected, included, supported, appreciated, and cared for.
A culture where team members feel a sense of community, feel their skills are being maximized & utilized, feel they are making a meaningful contribution, and feel like they are a part of something bigger than themselves.
A culture where team members feel aligned with our organizational core values, mission, and vision… feel they are compensated… and feel like they have a voice in how they perform their work.
A culture where team members know their role, embrace their role, and take pride in starring in their role to the best of their ability… where communication & feedback is open and honest… and where accountability is welcomed, given graciously, and received gracefully.
A culture where the organizational beliefs and personal behaviors are congruent (‘We say what we do and we do what we say.’), where team members feel they are improving, developing, and evolving… and where they have a crystal-clear path of career growth and advancement.
A culture so strong that team members feel they can ask you anything without fear of being dismissed, ignored, belittled, or ostracized.
Creating this type of high performing culture is not easy!
It takes a leader that is open, confident, empathetic, compassionate, and aware.
If you’d like a quick litmus test on how you are doing, when is the last time someone from your team had the courage to ask you one of these four questions:
#1) “When can we discuss me getting a promotion (and/or raise)?”
Asking for a promotion or raise can be a daunting question for any team member to ask… as it can feel wrought with awkwardness.
But it shouldn’t be.
As a leader, you should want team members with aspirations to progress and ascend throughout your organization.
You should want team members with so much confidence in their contribution that they feel they should be rewarded with more responsibility (and more compensation).
You should want team members who have the courage to ask for what they want.
If you want to keep high performers from leaving your organization and avoid trends like Quiet Quitting, having honest conversations and setting (realistic) goals about what it takes to earn a promotion or a raise shouldn’t be taboo. It should be welcomed, and it should be planned for.
As leaders, we should be outlining – and consistently recalibrating – every team member’s career growth path. We shouldn’t have to wait to be asked… we should be proactive!
Relying solely on a year-end annual performance review simply isn’t sufficient. This is something that needs to be revisited and re-evaluated consistently throughout the year!
#2) “Can you please help me with this?”
One of the biggest purveying myths is that asking for help is a sign of weakness… and something to be ashamed of.
Well, it isn’t.
It’s a sign of humility. It’s a sign of honesty. It’s a sign of strength.
As leaders, we should encourage our team members to openly ask for help when they need it!
And how do we get them to do that?
We model it.
As leaders, we need to model the behaviors we want to see in our team. After all, if we are going to expect it of others, we must first expect it of ourselves.
No one should be expected to have all the answers, and no one should be expected to do all their work in a silo. Business is the ultimate team sport. Asking for help is a necessity to high organizational performance. That’s what teammates are for!
I’ve heard horror stories of leaders saying things like, “How can you not know this?”, “This is what you get paid for!” or “You’re smart, I’m sure you can figure it out.”
Those leaders end up surrounded by unmotivated, petrified team members that will pull away, detach, and feel no sense of buy-in or believe-in.
If you want your team to perform at the highest possible level, not only should you encourage, support, and empower your team when they need help… you should be proactive in asking them, “What do you need from me?” or “How can I help you right now?”
#3) “I’m feeling a burned out (or I’m struggling with a personal issue), is it OK if I take some time off?”
We live in a society that glorifies the constant hustle… and where working long hours is a badge of honor.
The ‘Rise and Grind!’ mentality isn’t sustainable (or desirable to most people) and is a surefire recipe for burnout.
According to Spring Health’s survey in 2020, 76% of workers in the US reported they were currently experiencing burnout.
Burnout significantly lowers performance, erodes motivation/morale, and reduces productivity/contribution.
As leaders, the last thing we want is a burned-out team member.
We need to model, and support, a healthy work life flow.
We need to emphasize mental wellness and self-care.
We need to encourage time off to rest, recharge, and rejuvenate.
These are necessities, not ‘nice-to-haves.’ They are part of the human condition.
Ideally, these become staples in your culture, and you have systems in place to consistently check in with each member of your team to gauge how they are feeling.
#4) “I don’t understand” or “Why are we doing it this way?”
Very similar to #2 (asking for help), as leaders, we should want team members that have the courage to ask questions when they don’t understand something. This provides an opportunity to heighten clarity and make sure the job/task/project gets done correctly. It’s far more efficient and effective to help a team member understand the assignment in advance… then for them to do it incorrectly have to do it over again!
Along those lines, we should want team members who challenge the status quo. Team members that have a genuine curiosity. Team members that can offer a different vantage point and perspective on a ‘better’ way.
As leaders, we should always be able to clearly articulate the ‘why’ behind what we are doing… and what we are asking our team to do. Answers like, “That’s the way we’ve always done it” or “Because I said so” are archaic, unacceptable, and the quickest way to undermine your credibility!
Creating a culture where your team members feel safe and open enough to ask these four questions will prove to them that you care and prove to them, they are appreciated.Dr. Gary Chapman, the renowned author of the Five Love Language, conducted a massive research study years ago and found that 70% of US employees (across a wide variety of industries) felt under-appreciated… and 64% of them left their job because of it.
As leaders, we need to be very intentional in showing our team members how much we appreciate the sacrifices they make, the effort they put forward, and the work that they do!
And that starts with being open to anything and everything they want to ask.