Imagine you're leading a team in a company that’s on a journey to digital transformation. It's an exciting time and you’re enjoying all the learning that comes with it. And then one of your team members, let’s call her Karen, walks up and asks you a direct question:
“This digital transformation, what's in it for me?”
Now, it might feel natural to highlight the opportunities and possibilities that you’re aware of. After all, you're here to support and guide your team, right? But, hold on a moment. Is this the best place to start?
Think about it, Karen lives and breathes the daily challenges, the nitty-gritty of her work. She has a different perspective on what can help the company achieve its transformation. Her ideas might surprise you. So what can you do to help her come up with ideas about what’s in it for her?
It's remarkably simple. Just ask her, in a genuinely interested and friendly way:
“What do you think?”
And then stay silent, give her your full attention and listen without interrupting.
As Henry David Thoreau (philosopher, poet, environmental scientist and political activist) wisely noted, 'The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when someone asked me what I thought and attended to my answer.'
By asking Karen what she thinks, you’re telling her that you trust her and value her ideas. You’re empowering her to think independently, using her own unique knowledge and experiences.
She can reflect on the challenges she’s facing and find areas where she thinks change could
make a difference. She’s now using the skills, knowledge and ability that she was recruited for. Giving Karen the autonomy to think for herself increases her motivation and makes the digital transformation more likely to succeed.
Of course, life is rarely straightforward. Karen might not have any thoughts about what's in it for her. So, in this case, what can you do to ignite her transformational thinking? One approach is to ask:
“What do you need so that you can discover what’s in it for you in this digital transformation?”
It could be that she lacks information about the transformation. She might be unsure about how much support she’ll get if she wants to swap roles or maybe she’s grappling with imposter syndrome and doubts her capabilities.
As Robin S. Sharma (leadership expert) aptly put it, “Remember, we see the world not as it is but as we are. Most of us see through the eyes of our fears and our limiting beliefs and our false assumptions.”
Whatever the reason, by asking Karen what she needs, you’ll gather useful information. By working through Karen’s needs with her, you can free her mind to recognise what’s in it for her.
Others in the company may share similar needs and you can provide them with clarification as a result of your dialogue with Karen. This will help make the digital transformation successful.
And why not finish off your dialogue with a hypothetical, incisive question™ that will spark creativity and help Karen embed her ideas:
“If you knew, that there is something in it for you with digital transformation, what would you do?”
And you’ll hear innovative ideas flow.
In summary, questions have the power to inspire, engage and encourage people to think boldly and creatively.