How well do you know what your employees are thinking? Do you know what challenges they face? Would they tell you if they were encountering roadblocks or having trouble doing their jobs?
You need to know the answers to these questions, and you need to know exactly what your employees are worrying about or struggling with at all times, says Bill Lonergan, CEO of programmatic marketing company RadiumOne. Lonergan says the open culture at RadiumOne keeps him looped in to what he needs to know about employee thoughts and concerns, and he particularly credits his practice of asking employees three key questions at one-on-one meetings several times a year.
Though they seem simple, Lonergan developed these questions over 30 years as a business leader, some of them spent as a management consultant. He also learned them from reading rugby coaching books and raising children, he adds.
Here are the questions:
1. What's working and what's not?
2. How are you feeling?
3. Are you supported enough?
These questions form the beginning of a dialog--and it's important to think of it that way, he says. "Understand that feedback is a two-way street," he says. "When offering feedback, managers must understand that their employees may have feedback for them as well."
After asking each of these questions, spend some time simply listening to whatever employees have to say, he advises. Then, reiterate back whatever the employee said in your own words, making sure that employees know they've been heard and understood.
You might then continue the conversation with some more thought-provoking questions that may help the employee figure out how to respond to a problem or an opportunity. For instance, Lonergan might ask: "What are the top three things you want to accomplish with this client?"
If your organization is too large for you to have this conversation with every employee yourself, Lonergan advises teaching your managers this technique and have them ask the questions. He also uses anonymous online surveys and in-house communication platforms as additional ways to learn what employees have on their minds.
Gathering information this way has helped Lonergan make adjustments and improvements that make the company overall function better. For instance, he learned through conversations like these that most RadiumOne employees wanted the company to offer unlimited vacations. Though further discussion he also discovered that by working with managers and trusting employees to make sure their work was done, the company could make that new policy work.
That's just one example of the changes Lonergan has made based on asking employees his three questions. He believes making sure to have these conversations with every employee has helped RadiumOne maintain its startup, open culture despite a lot of growth. "Few things mean more to employees than someone who listens to them," he says.