The role of a manager is to constantly balance the art of forward-thinking and ensure that the day-to-day is achieved. We constantly have to straddle the line between strategic thinking and tactical doing. Some days or weeks it can feel like we’re off balance—extinguishing fires instead of ensuring our teams accomplish the right priorities.
To find the right balance, managers must not only understand the needs of their teams, but the role they need to play to support the individuals on them. Too often, our focus is on solving others’ issues rather than coaching and guiding our team.
Organizations today are spending time, energy, and resources on finding ways to engage employees at the corporate level. While those efforts are important, a recent TINYpulse study has shown that the majority of employees want their direct manager involved in employee engagement efforts in the workplace. Creating this connection with our employees seems like a simple way to improve engagement, but so many of us forget this fact. An easy and important way to create this connection is to ask, and apply, one simple question:
“How can I help you?”
This one question awards the ability to create balance for yourself. Asking it shows your team three things:
- You care. Asking how you can help creates the feeling that you are paying attention to and care about your employees. With so many of us running around, we may leave employees wondering if we really know what they’re struggling with or even what they do on a regular basis. Asking this question can create some basic, but critical, levels of trust. Even if the employee offers nothing for the manager to do, it creates the foundation that the manager cares and wants the employee to succeed. Taking time out of your day to meet with your employees and ask them that question can help create strong connections.
- It’s a two-way street. The manager-employee relationship can sometimes feel like the manager is constantly taking. Employees may feel like we’re always asking for more and constantly insisting for things to be done quicker and better. However, asking your employees how you can help allows you—as a leader—to create a give-and-take relationship. It shows your employees that, yes, at times you will need to take. You expect things to get done. But offering them your help can create opportunities to give to the employee, rather than take from them every time.
- At the end of the day, they own the issue. Some leaders worry that this question may shift ownership of the problem onto themselves, along with the responsibility of finding a solution to that problem. There may be times that you need to own the problem. Maybe it’s so big that leaders are the only ones that can take responsibility. This isn’t always true, however, and most of the time it’s up to the employee. Asking how you can help doesn’t mean “How can I take this off your plate?” But rather, how you as the manager can help the employee reach a solution. Consider another way to ask the same question: “What are you going to do about it?” Take everything under advisement, if you can’t respond immediately. Promise to act when you think it’s warranted but resist efforts to “delegate up.”
Overall, taking the time to ask employees questions like this can have a strong impact on their engagement with your organization, as long as you listen to and act on their responses.
About the Author
Mike Bensi is an Advisor at FirstPerson Advisors, an Indianapolis-based company that stays on top of workplace trends to help organizations design smarter people strategies for a more productive business. Their core solutions (benefits & compensation, community & culture, and leadership & infrastructure) help companies design meaningful employment experiences, resulting in healthier employees and a more productive business. As an Advisor, Mike works with organizations to identify and develop key solutions for their employee experience and employment strategies.