What can I do to help?

Want to shake things up and make your staff wonder what you’re up to?  Just walk into the office, ask a team member “What can I do to help?” and sit back to enjoy the reaction.  You might get a blank stare or hear “Um, well, I, uh…” – especially if you’ve never asked that question before.

So, where did this question come from?  I attended the Catalyst One Day conference last week where the topic centered on creating a healthy organizational culture.  Andy Stanley and Craig Groeschel taught at the event and relayed several great principles.  One of the many points that resonated with me was when Andy Stanley challenged every leader to take this question back to his/her team.

It’s a simple question, but can have a profound impact.  Asking this question communicates that you want to help each team member succeed and that you are willing to serve.  It also communicates that you recognize that your success is dependent on the success of your team members – that you need each other. When each team member knows that the leader is willing to leverage his time, ability and authority on their behalf, that’s a powerful message.

I’ve had the benefit of working for bosses who understood this principle.  During a difficult project, I needed some “air cover” from my manager.  In other words, I needed him to talk with the managers of other departments to advocate for the changes I was proposing that they probably weren’t going to like.  I felt safe asking for my manager’s help because he’d told me many times that he wanted to help me succeed and would back me up.  I kept him informed on the project so he could answer any questions and he supported me when we ran into various challenges.  Knowing that I had my boss’ support and that I could tap into his authority and influence if needed enabled me to lead the project team down a difficult, but ultimately successful path.

So, here’s my question for you: Does your staff feel safe in asking for your support or assistance? If you’re not sure, try asking what you can do to help this week.  You may not get an immediate answer, but keep asking and your team will start to come up with great ideas for how you can help them succeed.  Put this principle into practice for a few months and watch as the tone of your organization improves.  Your team will be more productive, morale will improve, and departmental barriers will start to break down as team members start asking each other what they can do to help.  Lead the way, follow-through on what your staff asks you to do, and reap the benefits of a healthier culture.

By the way, if you get the chance to attend a Catalyst event I’d highly recommend it!  They do a great job organizing the events and the content is excellent.  If at all possible, take some of your team along as well.