Leaders: What Your Followers Are Afraid to Say

When it comes to leadership, the higher you go, the more isolated and insulated you become from your followers. That means you’re not likely to even know the one question that’s on the mind of every one on your team or in your organization.

What question is that, you ask? It’s this question:

“Why should I care about what you want…when I don’t really believe you care about what I want?”

That’s what every person who is on your team or in your company is afraid to ask out loud–at least in your presence. They’re afraid because they’ve heard leaders say over and over again some form of “You should care about what I want because I control your paycheck.”

Sometimes leaders and managers say that outright, but most often, it’s said in more subtle ways. The result is your team members have quit asking the question that’s most on their minds and hearts.

The most successful leaders are the ones who know that and who do something about it.

That means you have to know what your team really wants–not what you think they want. If you think you know what your team wants, how sure of that are you? Research tells us time and time again there is a disconnect between what leaders and managers think is important to their team and is really important to their team.

Finding out what your team wants isn’t rocket science, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. You can’t just ask the question and expect to be enlightened. There has to be a dialogue and you have to ask questions (What do you want from me? From your work? From your team? From your life?) and then shut up.

You have to ask these questions more than once. Sometimes you have to ask them many times over the course of many months while you work on building trust.

Then you have to listen, listen more, and then listen even more. You have to set aside your assumptions, your biases and you have to set aside your defensiveness.

When you answer your employees burning question (“Why should I care…?”) and show them how what you want will help them to get what they want, they will give you more than you could possibly imagine.

But first, you have to get them past their fear of asking their question, “Why should I care about what you want…when I don’t really believe you care about what I want?”


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