Posts filed under Leadership

Bringing The Spirit of MLK Into The Workplace

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Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Everyone has the power for greatness, not for fame but greatness, because greatness is determined by service.”

MLK’s commitment to servitude inspired people around to globe to work for every person’s freedom, by any means necessary. His selfless acts of service to the country live on well past his death. Each January we reflect and remember the lessons he instilled. While Martin Luther King, Jr. primarily spoke on civil rights, his strong leadership can be incorporated into our work lives to inspire us to give back.

As we remember the great civil rights work of Martin Luther King, Jr., let’s consider how we can give back in the workplace.

Here are 4 ways you can give back at work and make a difference in the lives of your coworkers:

  1. Become a Mentor -  Use your unique experience to mentor a junior employee. Reflect on how you felt at the same stage of their career and empathize with their challenges, offering solutions to consider. If you don’t have years of work experience under your belt, consider reaching out to your alma mater and mentoring someone who shares the same major as you. Be a helping voice to others on a similar path.

  2. Give a Shoutout - Workplaces are often a thankless place. But a little thanks goes a long way! Did a team member step up and help you complete a project? Let them know! Did a client love the work your production team did on the latest project? Give the production team a shoutout and thank them for their hard work. By encouraging your coworkers on their “wins,” you’re contributing to a healthy and productive work environment.

  3. Champion Volunteer Efforts - There’s no doubt volunteering can help others, but it can also boost your overall well-being. For most of us, it’s not a part of the regular routine. Why not lead the charge and put together volunteering efforts for your company or team? Start by scoping out volunteer groups in your area, then ask your team which they would want to work with. You’ll be giving back to the community while also adding value and confidence in your workplace.

  4. Empower Team Members -  No matter your place on the organizational chart, you can give back by empowering others. Here are some ways to empower others, no matter your job title:

    1. Invite coworkers to share their ideas on a new project or client task. They may add a fresh perspective and feel empowered by learning more aspects of the job.

    2. Help your team members grow by giving direct, constructive feedback. Feedback is often viewed as uncomfortable, but most people want more of it. Structure the feedback in an empowering and constructive way. Don’t tear down but build up!

    3. Work with others to identify and develop skills they want to learn. Empowering them to explore new skills will help them gain confidence and become a more dynamic coworker.

    4. Demonstrate trust by not micromanaging. Instead, establish regular check-ins. This trust empowers your team members to do their job with feeling like you’re looking over their shoulder.

A team that empowers each other to do more, be better, and grow is a true testament to a strong culture. Give back and contribute to a positive culture by empowering those around you.

Interested in more ways to give back? Thank you notes go a long way in showing gratitude. Learn more about how to lead by serving.


Posted on January 15, 2019 and filed under Leadership.

How To Give Back At Work

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The holiday season signifies a time to slow down, reflect on the good and bad, and appreciate the joys of life. Why not do the same at your workplace? Showing professional gratitude and giving back at work will leave you feeling more fulfilled and encouraging a pleasant work environment. However, giving back at work doesn’t necessarily mean gifts – it can come in many different packages. Show your gratitude at work without spending any money, here’s how!

7 Ways To Show Gratitude At Work

  1. Lend a hand - ‘Tis the season for holiday travel and fast approaching deadlines. If time permits, help your co-workers with projects that may be adding stress. You could also share your expertise by mentoring a junior employee.

  2. Slow down - Our lives can be fast-paced and a bit self-centered, especially around the holidays. Taking the extra minute to ask about your co-worker’s day is a small but mighty gesture. You never know what they have on their plate – both personally and professionally – until you ask. By slowing down and simply listening, you can gain perspective and have a friendly conversation. If you have an extra 30 minutes in your day, ask a colleague to grab a coffee mid-afternoon and practice active listening.

  3. Encourage others - Sure, you’re at work to do work, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take the time to appreciate and encourage others. Did your direct report have a great client call they were nervous about? Encourage them by expressing a job well done in a way that you know they would appreciate. That may mean a simple pat on the back or a quick announcement at the next team meeting. A little encouragement goes a long way.

  4. Say thanks - Who are the unrecognized heroes of the office for whom you’re thankful? Perhaps it’s the receptionist, mailroom clerk, or your manager. Take the time to write individual thank you notes to the people who make your workday better.

  5. Reflect on the positive - Maybe you accomplished a challenging project, connected with your co-workers outside of work, or achieved a promotion. Keeping a big picture perspective and reflecting on the good things that happen at work can motivate and inspire you during the day-to-day. Plus, it will make you much more pleasant to work with, which your colleagues will definitely appreciate!

  6. Volunteer - Organize a community volunteer day with your co-workers. Not only will you give back to the local community but it also doubles as a team-building opportunity.

  7. Rest and recharge - While you’re giving back to others, don’t forget to give back to yourself! Take time to unplug, get fresh air, and reconnect with family and friends. Giving time to yourself time to recharge will feed into your work performance and happiness.

We hope you enjoy the holiday season with friends and family. If you find some downtime in between family time, check out these five books that will inspire, motivate, and equip you for success.

Posted on December 18, 2018 and filed under Community, Leadership.

Five Books That Will Inspire, Motivate, & Equip For Success

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Summer is coming to a close, the weather is cooling off, and we’re spending more time indoors. As the season ends, it marks a time to reflect on where you are in your career and where you aspire to be.

Are you hoping for a promotion?

A career change?

Perhaps you’re wrapping up school and looking for a competitive edge over other applicants?

Whatever your goals may be, our team put together a list of five great reads that will inspire, encourage, and equip you to succeed. We hope you enjoy these books as much as we have!

Check out these books if you want to be...

1. If You Want To Be A Better Leader

Work is more meaningful when we know the reason behind what we’re doing. However, most of our lives we’re told what to do, but not why we should do it. Simon Sinek’s Start With Why dives into the principal of leading with the “why” and how to use it to become great leaders.

2. If You Want To Be Fearless

Mistakes happen no matter who you are. It’s how you overcome the mistakes that help you learn and grow. In Permission To Screw Up by Kristen Hadeed, Kristen shares her experience (and mistakes) she’s had with her company, Student Maid. In the book, she dismisses the idea that leaders and organizations need to be perfect. Instead, she encourages learning by taking action and embracing failures, rather than waiting and thinking.

3. If You Want To Inspire Others

Servant leadership is the concept that managers and company leaders should aspire to serve their employees. This goes against the traditional company structure where managers expect their employees to serve them. The Serving Leader by Ken Jennings dives into this principle and gives ways to implement servant leadership tactics within your organizations.

4. If You Want To Help Grow The Company

Is your company growing? Are processes in place to sustain the growth? If not, give Jim Collin’s bestselling book, Good To Great a read. Jim describes the framework for how companies can make the step from good to great, and how and why some companies fail to make the transition.

5.  If You Want To Improve Company Culture

Former President of Starbucks, Howard Behar helped establish Starbucks’ company culture. His book, It’s Not About The Coffee, reveals critical leadership principles that helped shape Starbucks “people over profits” mentality.  

Want more resources to help you succeed in your career? Our team of experts can help you understand what YOU need for career success. We use proven assessments of personality type, interests, and strengths to create a strategy for your future growth and development. Contact us for more information.

Posted on September 18, 2018 and filed under Leadership.

How To Build Your Leadership Skills

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At some point on your career journey, you will probably be handed a leadership role. Maybe you will be asked to lead a team project or give a presentation. Or maybe you will oversee an entire branch of the company. Maybe an Executive position is even in your future! For whatever role you may be handed, it’s important to continuously build on your leadership skills. This will ensure long-term career success and will build your confidence.

Here are a few ways to develop professional leadership skills:

1. Take a personality test. Taking a personality test can be helpful when trying to determine what your strengths and weaknesses are. While it is important to understand your strengths and use them to your advantage, it is also equally imperative to understand where you can improve. It’s important to remember that weaknesses are not your downfall but rather areas you need to develop and build. Understanding what those weaknesses will provide better perspective for how you function individually and with a team. Personality tests are a fun and interesting way to learn more about yourself and develop your leadership skills.

There are a lot of personality tests out there; the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) Assessment personally changed Holly’s life and early career trajectory, so it’s our go-to when working with clients.

“The MBTI® Assessment is the most trusted and widely-used personality assessment tool. Supported by over 50 years of scientific research, as many as 1.5 million assessments are administered annually to employees of Fortune 100 and 500 companies, students and alumni at leading colleges and universities, and individuals seeking personal and professional growth. The MBTI® assessment provides insight into how we interact with the world, take in information, make decisions, and structure our environment, providing a powerful framework through which we can understand our own and others' behavior.”

Learn more about how you can invest in the MBTI® assessment.

2. Become a better listener. A great leader knows when to listen and when to direct. Being able to listen to ideas and suggestions can be a challenging skill to master but can make all the difference. Improving your listening skills can not only be beneficial to you but to the entire organization. It builds trust, respect and shows that you care.

3. Take initiative by volunteering beyond your job. Most companies have important work that isn’t getting done. Ask your company if you can help in these areas. Volunteering for extra tasks can help you expand your skill set while simultaneously helping the company. It shows your boss and others that you are not afraid to get your
hands dirty and that you want to be a leader.

4. Be a critical thinker, not just a doer. It’s easy to get tasks done, but what about taking it one extra step beyond what is expected of you? Critical thinking can efficiently address problems with new ideas beyond conventional solutions. It can also can give you an opportunity to impact the future of the organization by taking a broad, long-range approach to solving specific problems and making key decisions. View your work through multiple frames using objective analysis, forward thinking and planning. It will make you a strategic leader and a valuable asset to your team.

5. Be a constant learner. The best leaders are the best learners! Continuous learning is the ability to constantly develop your skills in order to perform job related tasks effectively and efficiently. Be a lifelong learner and you will find yourself met with success, both for you and your organization.

Leadership skills are essential in the workplace because they show that you have good interpersonal skills, the ability to coordinate, motivate and shape others decisions.

Posted on May 30, 2018 and filed under Leadership.

5 Ways To Model Healthy Leadership

Healthy Leadership

The textbook definition of “leader” is the person who commands a group or organization. Does this describe you at work? In a community group? At school? Among your peers?

A leader inspires, motivates, and encourages. Ideally, a leader models behavior that others should follow. Realistically, leaders are human and make mistakes. A leader may make a choice that, if others do the same, is not best for the greater good of the group/organization. There are countless examples of unhealthy leadership models in government and corporations alike. Turn on the local or national news tonight and you’re bound to see a handful of fallen leaders making headlines.

While we will all make mistakes in our career, it’s important to intentionally take steps to model healthy behavior for ourselves and for the good of those who follow us. If we don’t do this, we’ll burn out and grow stagnant in our success. Our followers will do the same. There are easy-to-implement steps we can take to ensure we are great leaders and are instilling healthy habits in our followers.

Here are five ways to model healthy leadership in your career:

  1. Make work/life balance a priority. If you are regularly going home only to shower and sleep a few hours before returning to work, you don’t have a healthy work/life balance. Similarly, if you haven’t taken a vacation in years, you don’t have a healthy work/life balance. If your followers see you burning the candle at both ends year-after-year, you are setting a precedent - this is how you lead and what you expect from other leaders in your group. There is a lot of research out there about why taking time off is good for your brain and productivity, so make sure you are balancing your time.

  2. Surround yourself with wise counsel. Everyone needs advice. Even Presidents and Kings have cabinets and courts to advise them in many different situations. It doesn’t matter how high up the corporate ladder you climb, seeking the opinion of a trusted friend, mentor, or colleague will result in success. This success will either be in your decision making, in your relationship building, or both. Either way, it’s a win-win. There is never a downside to seeking wise counsel.

  3. Collaborate, don’t divide. One of your goals as a leader should be to raise up people who can become leaders, too. This multiplies your team’s time and manpower, resulting in increased productivity and overall success. It also lends well to the philosophy that, “two heads are better than one” when considering your options and making the most informed decisions.

  4. Actively listen. One way you can earn the respect of your followers is to actively listen to what they have to say. If they want to offer feedback on your performance, listen intently, then consider the how and when this feedback applies. If they want to propose a new or different way of doing something, don’t brush them off. Not only will you earn respect, you might be pleasantly surprised by their amazing ideas! Learn more about how to actively listen here.

  5. Practice humility. No one likes to work for a leader who is arrogant. Balance your strengths and skills with the recognition that you can always improve. Practicing the previous four models of healthy leadership will naturally instill humility, as you realize that there are many people who can help and provide assistance to reach goals better than you could on your own. It’s not about you - it’s about the team and the overall good of your team and the projects you tackle.

What else would you add to this list? How do you model healthy leadership in your workplace?

 

Posted on April 6, 2018 and filed under Leadership.

Working with Different Personality Styles

Personality Types

Different personalities playing themselves out in the workplace can be very frustrating, comical, and entertaining. That’s why TV shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation are so popular. People can relate to these real-world characters. Either you are one of the characters or you know one!

There are so many personality tests out there, but the most widely used and most trusted is The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) Assessment. Our team of Certified MBTI® Practitioners provide consultations, and we’ve seen incredible results for both individuals and teams. We typically work on identifying personality types, and then provide coaching on how to interact with other personality types.

Let’s think through some scenarios of how personality types play out in the workplace using the TV show “The Office” as our example. (If you’re interested, here is an entire conversation thread about each character’s MBTI® type. Below is a summary of one person’s opinion from that thread.)

The “Michael Scott”: Do you have a boss that is extraverted, craves attention, procrastinates and is impressively loud? This type of personality is a great leader but needs coworkers that can be “the voice of reason” as needed.

The “Dwight Schrute”: Do you work with someone who has an amazing attention to detail but lacks the social tact to go with it? Tasks are more important than people, and while the job will always get done, some hurt some feelings will be left in the wake of success.

The “Jim Halpert”: Introverted, but a goofball, this person doesn’t readily open up to those around him or her, which can cause relationships to take a long time to develop between coworkers. It can also cause feuds that may disrupt work efficiency.

The “Pam Beesly”: Very emotional and not the greatest leader, Pam isn’t incredibly productive but does bring good ideas to the table. She is loyal but easily gets bored with work.

Why Personality Types Matter

While the TV show characters are dramatic for entertainment purposes, we can all relate to working with many personality types. It’s difficult to work with people that clash with your standard way of operating. Even with these rifts, recent studies have shown that collaboration directly links to higher revenue. At the end of the day, we want our positions, our teams, and our companies to be profitable. The great news is that all personalities can learn to work together and form productive, profitable teams.

Successful collaboration within internal teams and alongside external partners requires effective communication, conflict management, stress management, and leadership skills. There are many tools, resources, and attainable skills that anyone can learn to collaborate with other personality types effectively. Hiring a career coach and MBTI® consultant is the best way to ensure success in this area.

Are you interested in taking a MBTI® Assessment or having your entire team do so? The Wilbanks Consulting Group provides tailored workshops to groups, and career coaching to individuals, allowing teams and individuals to move forward quickly with the clarity and agility required to excel.  Learn more about MBTI® and schedule your assessment today!

Posted on March 27, 2018 and filed under Leadership, Search Strategy.

Active Listening

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There is a big difference between hearing and listening. Have you ever been talking with someone and just knew they weren’t listening? When you ask, “Are you listening?” the response is something like, “Yes, I heard you!”

Perceiving sounds is hearing.

Mentally processing and understanding what you’ve heard is listening.

What is Active listening?

Active listening is a strategy that provides tools to not only listen intently, but also proves to your conversation partner that you are engaged in the conversation. Active listening is a skill that takes practice and will immediately yield positive results in whatever conversations you have on a daily basis.

During an interview, it is imperative that you are an active listener. If you aren’t engaged, it will reflect poorly on your professionalism, your qualifications, and your ability to work with others.

Strategies to be an Active Listener

There are five basic steps to follow in order to be an active listener. They are straightforward and easy to implement, so you can start practicing immediately!

  • Eye contact - Direct eye contact makes is clear that the interviewer has your undivided attention. If you are wandering the room with your eyes, you seem disinterested or distracted.

  • Acknowledge - Acknowledge that you heard what the interviewer said.

    • “That’s a great point,” or “I understand” are great acknowledgement statements.

  • Clarify - Ensure you heard and understand what is being said by clarifying.

    • “If I am hearing you correctly, the number one skill you are looking for in this position is exceptional problem solving. Is that correct?”

  • Paraphrase - Repeating back what the interviewer has just said is a great way to be an active listener. Of course, it needs to be natural, so don’t repeat back like a parrot. Paraphrase instead.

    • “I agree 100%. One of the biggest problems in the workplace is lack of teamwork and miscommunication.”

  • Respond - When asked a question or given a statement or fact, respond appropriately. Even if you don’t understand, it’s better to respond than ignore.

    • “Thank you for laying out the responsibilities of the role. I’d love to share a bit about how my skills can help in these areas.” or “I’m not quite sure I understand. Do you mind going over this again with me?”

Some of these steps may seem unnatural at first if you aren’t used to them. For example, eye contact can be very uncomfortable to some! Practice with people you know and trust first and then gradually start utilizing your skills with others. It will get easier with time!

The great news is that active listening is a skill that will help you in interviews and in every life situation, personally and professionally. You can use active listening to improve interactions with your colleagues, significant other, children, friends, and even strangers!

Posted on February 28, 2018 and filed under Search Strategy, Leadership.

Leveraging LinkedIn to Secure Your Dream Job

If you’re looking for a new position this year, leveraging LinkedIn is a must! We recently published Getting Your LinkedIn Profile Ready for the New Year which includes tips to create or update your profile to stand out among hundreds of others. While your profile is important, there are a few more steps you can take to achieve the best results when finding and securing your dream job.

Tips For Using LinkedIn To Find Your Dream Job

  • Check your account regularly. It’s important that you respond to messages and other notifications quickly. You may miss an opportunity if you aren’t checking LinkedIn at least once a day.

  • Post industry relevant content on the news feed. Adding useful content to the news feed puts your name in front of your connections on a regular basis. Ensure what you’re posting is professional, relevant, and non-controversial to put your best foot forward.

  • Connect with everyone you know. The more networking you do, the more opportunities will come your way!

  • Update your career interests. This will automatically funnel the right opportunities into your “jobs” section of LinkedIn. It will also clearly show recruiters what you are looking for.

  • Join relevant, professional groups. Groups provide a platform to discuss industry topics while networking with others in your field. Participate in discussions by adding well thought out responses or even adding your own conversation starters!

LinkedIn Premium Services

On top of the steps listed above, LinkedIn also offers four premium services plans: career, business, sales, and hiring. Here’s a bit about the career and hiring plans, taken from the LinkedIn Premium Services website:

Career Plan

  • Get hired 2x faster!

  • Stand out and get in touch with hiring managers

  • See how you compare to other applicants

  • Learn new skills to advance your career

This plan allows you to directly message recruiters, see who has viewed your profile, be a featured applicant when you apply for a position, online video courses, and more.

Premium is available for a fee, but you can get your first month free with a trial. We recommend clients upgrade to premium for the duration of their job search. Once you secure a new position, you can switch back to the free version if you no longer desire the benefits of Premium membership.

Will you use LinkedIn this year to find your dream job? If you’d like expert assistance to increase your success rate, contact one of our career coaches today!

Posted on January 10, 2018 and filed under Search Strategy, Career, Leadership.

Career Planning - Short & Long Term Strategies

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You want your work to have meaning, to give you a purpose, and to continue to challenge you throughout your life. Experiencing growth, satisfaction, and fun while making an income is important. But how do you get all of that? You must have two things:

  1. A short term career planning strategy

  2. A long term career planning strategy

But here is where most people make a big mistake: You can’t make effective short term goals without first setting long term goals. Let’s break down each one.

Long Term Career Planning Strategy

Having a long term strategy to achieve your career aspirations will help you in many ways. You’ll be able to make career decisions more easily. You’ll work with more purpose and fulfillment knowing where you are headed. You also won’t get stuck in a job that isn’t a right fit, because your goals won’t align with what you’ll achieve in a “bad” position.

Sit down and think about big picture questions, such as:

  • Where do I want to be in 10 years?

  • What gives me purpose in my career?

  • What three to five goals would I like to achieve by retirement?

  • What is most important to me at work?

  • Do I want to manage a team or work solo?

Write a letter to yourself, describing exactly who you want to be and what it is you want to achieve in your career. This exercise might be awkward at first, but it will help you visualize your future and think through the direction you’d like to go.

Post this letter in a place where you can see it regularly. Read it every month. Adjust it as things change, which can, and maybe should, happen from time to time. Perhaps you start a family or your priorities change as you get older and it affects your long term goals. It’s good to be flexible. Having a long term strategy should guide you, not rule you.

Short Term Career Planning Strategy

With your long term strategy put in place, a short term strategy will be easier to implement. Do the same exercise for short term planning, but adjust the questions slightly. The questions you ask yourself might look something like these:

  • Where do I want to be this time next year?

  • What three to five goals do I want to achieve this year?

  • What small, attainable steps do I need to take this year to get closer to my long term goals?

Write a letter to yourself and place it where you can review it regularly. Since this is a short term strategy, update it every six months to one year. Hopefully you will achieve everything you wrote down, which will keep the momentum going for your long term strategy. If not, that’s OK! Adjust as needed and keep going. Again, this is meant to be a guide to help you reach your long term goals. It should guide you, not rule you!

Let WCG Partner With You!

We would love to come alongside you and help develop your short and long term career planning strategies. Our team of career consultants can help you craft the perfect strategy to achieve career success. We use proven assessments to examine your personality type, interests, and strengths. We align the results with your goals to create a strategy for future growth and development through your current position or a new one. Our career coaching empowers you to flawlessly execute your strategy in any situation! You can learn more about our services and packages available here.

Posted on November 1, 2017 and filed under Career, Leadership.

Managing Communication: Messages to Employees May Not Be So Obvious

Communication, that essential element for any manager, is often not as clear as we might think. Two primary goals of a line manager’s communication are to convey the organization’s goals and strategies, and to give clear directions and rationale for employees. The ultimate objective is to align the team’s work to the overall corporate strategy and lead to positive outcomes. Bidirectional communication includes listening to employees and treating what they say seriously, providing opportunities for productive discussions. Yet the Harvard Business Review (HBR) reports that a myth in strategy execution is that “communication equals understanding,” citing that only “55% of the middle managers we have surveyed can name even one of their company’s top five priorities.”

From the time a worker is elevated to manager or a position of authority—often without the support of management and leadership training—a certain distortion in perception occurs. Fully 91% of employees surveyed in a recent HBR poll report that communication issues prevent executives from leading effectively. By being aware of this shift, managers can reflect upon communication challenges and address problems before they become too damaging to the manager-employee relationship. Here, we discuss some key communication challenges and offer suggestions for avoiding these pitfalls.

A Manager’s Perception

Many managers fall victim to some level of power poisoning, often by forgetting what it’s like to be the employee. This drop in empathy, according to increasing authority, has been detailed in numerous management studies. Though this progression is quite normal—it’s only natural to pay more attention to the boss than to the intern—the result is often that leaders miss out on the true perspective of subordinates when they need it most.

This so-called toxic tandem, outlined by Stanford’s Robert Sutton, is the tendency for managers to become less empathetic to subordinates while the employees more closely examine the boss’s words and actions. Leaders can sidestep the pitfalls of the toxic tandem by increasing their understanding of how messages are received by subordinates.

For instance, when managers have a big announcement or change to make, they have already processed the scenarios, considered alternatives, made decisions, and accepted the reality of the situation. By understanding that employees will also need time to process the situation, and that drastic changes may mean part of the message is missed in the initial delivery, an empathetic leader will repeat simple elements of the message over time to ensure that the most important takeaways from the discussion sink in.

Manager to Employee Exchanges

As previously mentioned, the downward communication from manager to employee is not always a smooth path. Frequently, managers are smart, well-educated leaders who aren’t as adept at delivering information as they may hope.

A manager who has specific ideas about how a task or project should be completed ought to provide that information as a guideline for the employee, especially when the guidelines determine how the employee’s performance will be judged. It is better to avoid assuming that the guidelines are immediately obvious or that the message is completely clear.

Welcome employee questions that seek clarity – the more the topic is discussed, the more likely the employee is to understand the perspective and complete the project to everyone’s mutual satisfaction. Consider that an employee who asks numerous questions may not fully understand the task as initially outlined, so the questions are seeking to clear up ambiguities rather than questioning the manager’s expertise or authority.

Remember that when the expected outcomes are not obtained, the manager’s message to the employee may not have been effective. Reflect on how the toxic tandem might be at play in the delivery and reception of the message—a different approach or discussing the rationale and context for the work in deeper detail may resolve the disconnect between what a manager thinks was said and what the employee heard and interpreted.

Employee to Manager Exchanges

When seeking information from employees, be aware that the framing of the question often predetermines the response that the manager will receive.

For example, a common mistake is asking leading questions, such as “Don’t you think…?” When the employee privately disagrees, he or she is faced with either giving the answer that the boss wants despite personal opinions, or giving an answer that conflicts with the boss’s thinking. Many employees will want to avoid the discomfort and risk of outwardly disagreeing with the boss; the employee is more likely to give the former response, leading to the manager missing out on the true measure of the situation.

Therefore, it’s better to avoid leading questions and instead ask broad, open-ended questions when seeking opinions and information. This allows employees the opportunity to express more honest opinions and increase their sense of ownership in the discussion. Examples of open-ended questions include: What do you think about this new initiative? How did your client meeting go? Tell me about your project. Proper open-ended questions cede control of the conversation to the responding employee, whose full answer will draw upon his or her own knowledge or opinions.

If you are experiencing particular challenges in communicating with your employees, we recommend that you consider how your perspective may differ from that of your subordinates. The message that you think is perfectly clear may not take into account the time and additional context that employees need to reach similar conclusions. The consideration of these communication scenarios can improve the manager-employee relationship, and ultimately, improve performance and outcomes.

Amanda Y. Hendrix
Expert Consultant, The Wilbanks Consulting Group