The staff of an organization is a treasure trove of information for leaders although most leaders and supervisors do not take advantage of that information. This is because leaders and supervisors assume that they know information they don't and that can be a deadly mistake on several levels.
Here are the four things leaders don't know about their staff but can if they choose.
The happiness factor of their staff members
Why is it important to know this? Because unhappy staff eventually leave while happy staff stay. If you find out too late that a valuable staff member is not happy they are often already gone emotionally and often you find out when they give you their resignation.
Ironically, this is one of the easiest pieces of information to know about your staff. For years, I have asked staff what their happiness factor is on a scale of 1 to 10. If their answer is 8 or lower I will ask the follow up question: What would make it higher than it is? You may find out what frustrations they are dealing with, a personal issue you can pray about with them or the fact that they are bored in their responsibilities. A simple question that can give you significant information.
Barriers that staff face in their work
One of the fundamental responsibilities of supervisors is to remove barriers for their staff. These may be financial, organizational, uncooperative people or strategic. Yet, as leaders or supervisors, we often do not know what those barriers are. Unless we ask!
I often do staff audits - hour long conversations with staff of an organization where I ask this simple question. Often, when I report to the leadership what I found they are surprised by some of the barriers and are usually desirous of removing them. This simple question can give you information you would not know about as you assume all is well - and it gives you the opportunity to serve your staff in a very practical way by helping to remove barriers they face.
Unused potential of staff
We hire staff for a particular job but sometimes forget that they are growing and developing and often they see things they could do and would love a shot at it. In fact, it is not unusual when I do audits to discover staff who are not being used to their potential and are thinking of moving on because they are bored.
Anytime we can give staff an opportunity to do more or to tackle more difficult assignments we ought to do so. Engaged staff are happy staff while bored staff are unhappy. The simple question, are you being used to your fullest potential can open up an insightful conversation. And maybe keep a good staff member in your organization.
Ideas for doing work more effectively
Because leaders are often focused on the larger issues, they often don't know the processes that make up the day to day work flow for subordinate staff. Further, organizations easily continue to do work they way they have always done it when more efficient and effective options could save time and money. Those closest to the work flow are often aware of efficiencies that could be implemented but because they are not asked, they don't feel like they are empowered to share their ideas.
Asking what we could do better or more effectively is a simple way to spark ideas and conversation about lean practices and management. Usually there is low hanging fruit that comes to the surface that can be implemented immediately - simply because we asked.
Ironically, many leaders and supervisors don't ask these kinds of questions because they don't "have the time." If staff leave, are frustrated, are not being used to their potential or could operate more leanly one cannot afford not to have these conversations. This is an investment very well spent.
TJ Addington of Addington Consulting has a passion to help individuals and organizations maximize their impact and go to the next level of effectiveness. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org