If I’m honest with myself, I’m a bit thankful the current hiring struggles are being felt by businesses around the world (Including my own!). Now before you tune me out or begin sending hate mail, hear me out. The current hiring crunch and labor shortage is doing something that is positive even though it may not feel like it at the moment. What it’s forcing many of us to do is reevaluate our skills as leaders. If it’s not, then it should be because we all have things to learn and our people deserve leaders who are on a constant path towards growth.
One major tool that many of us are now being forced to develop is our ability to engage our employees in such a way that they feel some sense of loyalty or drive to be a part of our teams. This has become so critical and we are no longer able to ignore it or give ourselves the excuse that we don’t have time to focus on and learn more about this particular skill set. Many of us are starting to realize that if we don’t increase our competency in this area we are going to suffer the consequences and, if left unattended, it will be painful.
I was recently listening to an episode of the Ed Mylett Show, a podcast that brings on guests who have spent many years of their careers developing deep knowledge on specific fields of study. In this episode his guest was Dr. Zoe Chance. She recently released a book called Influence Is Your Superpower where she dives into, and in some ways, debunks concepts that most of us feel gives us the highest chance to get someone to do what we want. I’m not going to recap the entire show but I will encourage all of you to take a listen, it will be a show I will return to multiple times to take in all that she shares. Ok so back to the reason I bring up this particular episode. During the interview Dr. Chance retells a story of a researcher who engages a village in Africa in response to an event where 3 different young woman are abducted into the sex trade. The researcher had layers and layers of education, multiple decades of focused study and experience in this particular field and was well equipped to bring answers and processes that would help solve this problem and ultimately stop it from happening again. When arriving she gathered some of the women leaders of the village and sat them all down to discuss the details of what happened. Now here’s where it gets interesting. Instead of sitting them all down and launching into a presentation of her plan, delegating tasks and responsibilities etc., she simply asked the women present one question. WHAT WOULD IT TAKE to prevent this from ever happening again? The women’s answer was “electrical fencing”…. A bit taken aback and somewhat confused, she asked, “why electrical fencing?” “Keeps the elephants from trampling and eating our corn crops,” the woman said. “This will ensure our women will have the resources they need to provide for themselves and no longer be placed in a compromising position that can lead to them experiencing the same heinous crime as those three girls.” The answer didn’t look like the researcher had guessed and, all of a sudden, an extremely weighted and overwhelming problem had an answer that could be addressed with only a few thousand dollars. Long story short, the resources were gathered and fencing was installed. That researcher returned and monitored the outcome of the plan the village elders had suggested. Over the following 3-4 years, not a single girl was harmed or exposed to that inhumane experience. It worked.
The village woman had no education, lived in a far less technologically advanced culture and lacked many of the worldly markers for being seen as the folks with all the answers. It would have been easy to dismiss their input or not even ask for it at all but instead the researcher acted with great wisdom and asked the simple questions WHAT WOULD IT TAKE to prevent this from ever happening again. I believe many of us, myself included, can miss a glaringly obvious technique for creating a healthier and more loyal team. We forget to ask them for their input. If we do ask, it’s commonly with a filter that limits the value of what they say and often is more lip service out of obligation rather than intentional leadership. In the end we lose, our team loses and our company culture suffers.
When we learn of or identify key issues in our businesses we have the awesome opportunity to engage our teams and ask our employees for their feedback. We can ask WHAT WOULD IT TAKE and then intentionally listen for their response. At minimum their input will add clarity and definition to a strategy we had already begun to develop and, at best, it will provide the specific tactic required to solve the problem long-term. Like the village elders, our technicians and staff have a perspective of our business and our clients that differs from ours. They are often closer to the issue, see it face to face and understand some of the nuance that we can’t see. In addition to often having a better answer then we may have, they also experience something very powerful when engaged this way. They feel respected, valued and a part of something bigger than themselves. Not only do we get the chance to gain better perspective and engage more minds to solve our problems but we also show our team members how important they are to us and the mission ahead. It creates engagement and loyalty. It helps develop our employees’ skill sets and ensures we build teams that can lead our companies to success. It helps build a company made of needle movers and play makers. It changes their lives and enhances ours.
Click below and check out the Head Heart & Boots Podcast – In this episode we wrestle with this exact topic, diving a little deeper into how this powerful question can change our businesses and us in the process.