When people reflect on their careers, activities at work and what they can do to increase the likelihood of success, they might find that thinking rarely leads to doing. Perhaps if they asked themselves questions that lead to active change rather than passive questions, their focus would change and they could affect the change they are dreaming about for their careers.
Although companies regularly spend money to train their employees, the result is often that they stifle innovation instead of encouraging employee engagement. Companies need to approach the engagement of their employees in a new way. Survey results from organizations around the world indicate that companies use only passive questions to assess conditions. Passive questions illustrate static conditions, and might sound like, “Are your goals clear?” People who are asked questions framed in this way often think about what’s happening to them instead of what they’re doing. They focus on their circumstances and not on their own success. For example, an environmental specialist might focus on following a standard process instead of proposing a customized process that works better.
Answers to passive questions are almost always environmental. An employee who answers that his or her goals are unclear will often blame the lack of clarity on outside circumstances. Excuses might range from “The project direction is unclear” to “My manager hasn’t specified goals for me.” When posed with a question similar to this, many employees look outward for blame instead of taking personal responsibility for setting their own goals.
An hourly laborer might dream of being a project lead or site foreman. Asking him the right questions—in the right way—might help him realize his ambitions.
Asking passive questions isn’t wrong, though it often causes repercussions that aren’t always positive. Asking solely passive questions can provide an easy excuse for employees to avoid being accountable and taking responsibility as individuals. If employees aren’t prompted to see themselves as taking the lead role in their own development, many will pass that responsibility on to someone—anyone—else.
How can this unproductive fate be avoided?
Simply put, the opposite of passive questions are active questions. Revisiting an earlier example question as it might apply to an engineer, “Are your goals clear?” could be improved and made active. An alternative might be “Did you apply yourself as best you can to setting specific, measurable goals for yourself?” The original version of this question really asks about the employee’s mindset; the alternative enables the employee to assess and argue for a specific plan. The engineer might realize an opportunity to plan a project differently or lead a new project instead of simply acknowledging progress in someone else’s plan.
Asking the following six questions will allow you to become are more successful version of yourself.
- Am I taking steps to increase my happiness?
- Am I taking steps to find meaning?
- Am I taking steps to be engaged?
- Am I taking steps to build positive relationships?
- Am I taking steps to set specific, measurable goals for myself?
- Am I taking steps closer to achieving my goals?