Ask Questions to Improve MoraleBy Gini Dietrich

Why is it even years are so difficult? Maybe it’s because I was born in an odd year, but man!

This year has been rough.

Not rough from a 2008-2011, the economy crashed, there is the debt ceiling debate, we don’t know if we’re going to stay in business point-of-view.

(Look at that! Two even years in that timeframe.)

But rough in a why does it feel like the world is topsy turvy and no one is happy kind of way.

Every PR firm owner I speak with right now feels the same way and, to boot, new business development is sluggish all around.

(This is a leading indicator of something I’d like to ignore right now.)

Everyone agrees business is stable, but there isn’t any real growth. And, in a service business, that’s demotivating.

So, imagine if you will, if I feel this way—and other PR firm owners feel this way—what our teams must feel.

As much as you try to hide stress, people can feel when something has shifted.

And something has most definitely shifted.

What Do You Think?

Even so, it’s the job of any person who leads a team to maintain morale and keep people motivated.

When I was working with Randy Hall—leadership coach extraordinaire—he counseled me to stop giving people answers.

He said, when people ask questions, they expect I know the answer, but I’m not empowering or motivating them to figure it out on their own.

And that kind of empowerment and motivation is what drives loyalty and high morale.

Now, that said, my favorite question to ask is, “What do you think?”

It drives people crazy. It drives me crazy.

(If I knew, I wouldn’t be asking you!)

But it also is incredibly empowering.

Oh! She really wants to know what I think!

Soon, people come to you with solutions and answers versus challenges and questions.

And, when you allow that kind of thinking, an entirely new world opens up, when it comes to creativity and innovation.

Ask Questions to Improve Morale

But it’s not easy.

It’s super easy to provide an answer and move on with your day.

It’s really difficult to stop what you’re doing, ask questions, ask questions again, don’t get antsy because the solution isn’t coming as quickly as you would like, and ask even more questions.

When you’re tired or busy or overly stressed, it’s much, much easier to just provide the answer.

But that doesn’t do anything for morale, for empowerment, for loyalty…and certainly not for company growth.

Now, let’s imagine we take “what do you think?” when asked a question or presented with a problem, and build on that. Now we should be proactive about asking our team questions.

  • How are you doing this morning?
  • Is there anything I can do or get you to help you do your job today?
  • When do you need that and in which format is best for you?
  • What else can I do?

And then, when you do your walking around (or popping into a video chat unexpectedly), you ask:

  • How are you doing?
  • Is there anything else you need?

Build an Empowered and Engaged Team

You would be amazed at the responses you get.

Not immediately.

When you first begin this, people will think you’re nuts and clearly must have something up your sleeve.

But, if you’re consistent and you truly listen to what they have to say (and deliver on what they need), they’ll soon discover you’re being authentic and you truly care.

Even if you don’t lead an organization, this works just as well (maybe even better) if you manage a team or work with a group of freelancers or are in charge of the summer interns or whatever it may be.

Now think about a team or an entire organization where, while things may seem topsy turvy in the rest of the world, your team is highly motivated, highly engaged, and empowered to do their jobs…and then some.

You may be stressed about leading economic indicators that aren’t yet here (cough, guilty, cough), but your team is rocking and rolling and you can’t help but be caught up in their enthusiasm.

That is a place every, single one of us would want to work.

image credit: shutterstock

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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