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How ya doin’? 

I have a routine with one of my employees that we engage in every day at work.  We will pass each other in the hallway, and as I pass, I ask, without slowing down, “How are you doing?”

In response, also without slowing down, he replies, “Not bad.”

Asking and Answering Questions

My interaction with this employee is really not an interaction.  When I pass in the hallway, I’m not interested in finding out how he is “doing.”

And likewise, when he replies, “Not bad.” doesn’t mean that in the scheme of his world, he is closer to bad than good.  He could just as easily reply “Fine,” or “Fantastic,” or “Okee dokee.”

We are both just fulfilling our specific role in a daily routine.

And that routine is unfortunate for both of us.

How are You Doing?

In meeting in the hallway, I could replace “How are you doing?” with “Hello,” or any other typical greeting.  But what would happen if I ask, “How are you doing?“ with the intent of finding out how someone is really doing?

Like most good employers, I care about my people.  I want to know what is going on in their lives and if everything is good with their work assignments.  I interested in knowing if there is anything I can do to help.

But with my casual use of “How are you doing?” when the time arrives where I honestly ask how they are doing, they will not know if I’m asking or if I’m simply greeting them.

Questions for Employees

As a business owner and entrepreneur, I think there are four questions we need to ask our employees.  And, we need to protect these questions so that when we ask them, our employees know they are coming from our hearts and we sincerely care.

  1. What can I do to make your job easier? – As business leaders, we need to be cognizant that we have gaps in our knowledge of our business processes. I am always surprised and grateful for the amazing ideas that my employees come up with that can save time and money.  And, mostly all they need from me is a little encouragement and support.
  2. How do you like to work? This question is not asked often enough.  I automatically assume everyone wants to work the way I work.  But not everyone likes to work the same hours and in the same type of environment.
  3. How do you want me to manage your work? – Some people like to be left alone. Just give them their assignment and the deadline and then leave them alone.  Others like periodic input, progress reviews, and encouragement and support.  The easiest way to know how to manage people is to ask them.
  4. How do you like to be rewarded? – I admit, this is a new approach for me, but it makes sense. Not everyone is happy with a pat on the back for a job well done.  Alternatively, not everyone is comfortable getting recognition online or in print.  Asking first is the best way to avoid embarrassment and disappointment.

The Bible

The key to caring for our employees is our ability to ask questions in such a way that the employee knows we care, and they feel secure in giving us honest answers.

The Master at asking questions is Jesus.  I would encourage you to read the eighth chapter of Mark.  In this passage, Jesus asks questions to collect data, make a statement, and communicate passion.  He also uses questions to correct people and to get feedback.

Specifically, in Mark 8:27-29, Jesus asks.

Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”

Notice how he gets important and personal information from his followers.  You can envision Him intently looking directly as the disciples when he asks “who do you say I am.”  He was not intimidating, but they knew he wanted an honest answer.

As business leaders and entrepreneurs, we need to know that our success in managing our staffs will be in how effectively we can ask questions.  And who better to learn how to ask questions than from the Master himself.