A long time ago, a management expert believed that bosses should tell employees what to do because workers were seen as “stupid and phlegmatic,” kind of like oxen. Sadly, some bosses still follow this wrong idea.
When your coworkers ask for help, do you give them direct orders or ask them questions? Just telling people what to do usually doesn’t work well. First, you might not even understand the real problem. People going through the issue know it better. Second, if they don’t feel like the idea is theirs, they might not put in their best effort. This leads to blaming and micromanaging, and that’s not helpful.
So, instead of just telling them what to do, try asking questions. Here are three that help create a culture of innovation:
What do you recommend?
- When you ask this, your coworkers will start coming up with ideas. Some of the best ideas come from the people closest to customers—the ones who know about customer problems, new technologies, and how things work on the ground.
How can we test that?
- After getting ideas, it’s good to test them to see how they work. Even if you’re not sure about an idea, let your team try it out. You might be surprised. Testing brings good surprises, and with practice, everyone gets better.
What do you need from me?
- As a leader, your job is to help your team succeed. Ask them about any challenges they might face and how you can help. It could be money, resources, or connecting them with someone who has the right skills. Instead of getting in the way, you can clear obstacles for your team.
Many successful startups started with people who had ideas while working somewhere else. Companies end up spending a lot of money buying these startups when they could have had the ideas themselves if they listened to their employees. Studies show that when companies invest in their employees, they become more productive.
How you treat your coworkers is not just about making money. Create a workplace where people are encouraged to use their creativity. It starts with asking three simple questions.