Each person in your organization, at some level, truly wants to do a great job and be recognized for their contribution. And motivating them can be as simple as a four-word phrase, according to Tom Peters, business management guru and author of the classic book, In Search of Excellence.
Take a look at what Mr. Peters has to say in this 2-minute video (spoiler alert – I’ll be giving it away below the video):
How simple is that? Just four words that reach into the hearts and minds of your employees: “What do you think?” As Mr. Peters says, these words show others how valuable and important they are to you.
However – a word of caution. If you use this phrase the wrong way, it can backfire. The “wrong” way includes: being insincere, indecisive or patronizing.
Okay, I am about to “out” myself as an occasional watcher of “The Apprentice.” On the season opener a few days ago, the project manager for the episode, Nicole, used this “What do you think?” technique to motivate her team. But it backfired because she used it ineffectively.
She didn’t truly care about their wisdom. She was more interested in trying to protect herself from owning full responsibility. She made several decisions based on her teammates’ opinions – even when she clearly didn’t agree. Her game strategy was to shift at least some responsibility to others in case her team lost.
Nicole’s “What do you think?” approach was never grounded in a clear vision. She gave away her power by letting her team’s varying (and loud!) opinions run amuck. Inviting collaboration is a great skill for a leader – but too much consensus-building can water down the end result. Instead of seeing her as inclusive and collaborative, her team saw her as weak and indecisive. Her team lost and she was fired. It was not pretty.
Of course, The Apprentice is a contrived scenario. In a true business environment, Nicole would have had more support, more leverage, more control of the situation. But I thought the episode demonstrated a classic flaw in leadership: Misusing consensus building.
The four words, “What do you think?” are powerful. They convey a high regard for others – but only if you also feel that same level of regard. Don’t be phony with these four words. When used well, and from your heart, this phrase is a great way to genuinely seek out your brilliant team members’ wisdom. It’s a tricky balance, but a key to creating an inspired team.