Most of us have been there: You’re finishing a meal at the new restaurant you decided to try, when the manager with the big smile approaches and says, “Hello folks! Just wanted to check in. How was everything?”
Before he had intruded, you’d mentioned to your companion that “It’s a shame it’s so cold in here,” and “Can’t anyone deliver a hot plate of food anymore?” But in that moment, all is forgotten. You return the manager’s smile and say, “Everything is fine – thank you.”
And in an instant, the restaurant’s opportunity for real improvement (perhaps the chance to stay in business) is lost.
Alarmingly, the same interaction occurs in organizations. The well-intentioned supervisor, in an attempt to get needed feedback asks colleagues, “What do you think?”
“Everything is fine, boss” or heads nod silently, or the few who always dominate the conversation speak out. And in an instant, the potential for real improvement is lost.
The restaurant would grow faster if the manager replaced “How was everything?” with “If you wouldn’t mind: What’s one thing we could do to improve your experience?”
The supervisor increases the odds of dramatic advances by adding the second half of his question:
– What do you think…is the one thing we should do to improve?
– What do you think…we can do to ensure the customer knows we’re listening?
– What do you think…our critical next step is?
Asking a question is far more than a nicety. Done well, they provide the inflection point inspired leaders are seeking.