Our lives are shaped by the questions we ask. Good questions lead to good outcomes. Bad questions lead to bad outcomes.
A friend once asked Isidor I. Rabi, a Nobel prize winner in science, how he became a scientist. Rabi replied that every day after school his mother would talk to him about his school day. She wasn’t so much interested in what he had learned that day, but she always inquired, “Did you ask a good question today?”
“Asking good questions,” Rabi said, “made me become a scientist.”
How’s your workplace culture? It’s a subjective question perhaps, but one that’s important nonetheless. A good leader cares about it.
Your workplace culture is the sum of all the people who have bought-in not only to you as a leader – but to your organization-, your values, your service, your product, and the contributions you are making because your organization exists. If your people have no buy-in or sense of ownership, then your culture is going to suffer as well as your impact.
In light of this, here are five basic questions your team members need to be able to answer. These questions are a reflection of their personal investments as well as their understanding of what it means to be on your team.
Why am I here?
Your employees need to be able to answer this question at the beginning of their tenure in your organization. Without a clear understanding of how they fit in and why they fit in, your people will never reach the potential for which they were hired. But it also helps them clarify internally the reason they chose to come on board in the first place. If they don’t have a good answer to this question then chances are they have no good reason to be there.
The question of why am I here speaks to their motives.
How do I add value?
Everyone in your organization wants to know and believe that they make a difference. They want to be impact players. They should be able to identify ways in which they add value and know that they are not being taken for granted. No one person can do it all by themselves, and everyone’s contribution matters. Your employees need to be able to clearly and confidently identify the tangible ways they add value to your team. Their sense of belonging is riding on it.
The question about value speaks to their contribution.
What is our purpose?
Fundamental to the success of your team members is a clear understanding of what they are doing and why they are doing it. Your mission and vision must be clear. Your employees need to be able to answer this. If they can’t, they are exposing a much deeper issue for you as a leader. Employees with no knowledge of the greater purpose to which they serve reflect a dereliction of your leadership. If your people don’t understand their purpose they will have a hard time finding their place.
The question of knowing your purpose speaks to understanding your ‘why’.
What sets us apart?
In addition to knowing their purpose, your team members need to know what sets their organization apart from their competitors. Most businesses – be it a coffee shop, retail store, school, financial services, etc. are a dime a dozen. Knowing what sets you apart goes beyond memorizing a mission statement that’s in a cracked frame in the break room. It’s about the relentless pursuit of excellence in everything you do.
The question of knowing what sets you apart speaks to your values.
Are we still growing?
Everything you do depends on the answer to this question. Your employees may fully understand why they are there, how they add value, what your purpose is, and what sets your organization apart; but if your organization has grown complacent then you are vulnerable. Having the right answers is a good thing, having the right mindset is better. If your culture has stopped growing, then it’s time to disrupt things and get back on track.
The question about growing speaks to your future.
A good leader will ask great questions. Not for the sake of asking questions but to gauge the heartbeat of your organization and to know your people. Don’t be afraid to ask the questions. Don’t be afraid of the answers.