You are not being soft by asking soft questions
As I cross the country speaking to groups about employee engagement, I often get resistance to the idea of asking staff ‘soft’ questions.
- How is it going?
- What was your best day at work this month?
- Do you feel you have everything you need to do your work properly?
- Has anything changed over the past month?
- How are things at home? In your life in general?
I have listened to and summarized some of the most common reasons why leaders don’t want to ask these types of questions:
- They fear they will be opening a Pandora’s Box of discussion that they don’t have time for, nor interest in.
- They think they are implying that the person is doing a great job, since they are “getting friendly” with them and they want to see improvement before they are nice.
- They don’t want to their waste valuable time on chit chat, nor take the staff away from their work for it.
My response to this comes from two places, the research and my personal experience.
After making sure that your staff knows what is expected of them and that they have the right tools and training, the next most important factor in their engagement at work is centered around whether they feel that someone at work cares enough to take the time to know them as a person. This is very similar to the love/belonging stage of human growth in Maslow’s Hierarchy. You can’t get beyond a certain level with your staff if you are not willing or able to take the soft side with them, period. If you won’t go there you will forever be a mediocre leader.
My Personal Experience
As I have taken the time to get to know each of my staff and let them get to know me, I have seen the rewards that result. At IBEX we have a 1 on 1 coaching session every six weeks between each staff member and their leader/coach. Most of the talk would be considered soft. We do deal with performance issues very regularly and they are brought up at these coaching sessions, but the really important part of these sessions is the soft stuff. The best leaders in our organization know how to balance hard talk with the soft and they never fail to do the soft at every chance they get.
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