This Question Will Immediately Improve A Company

Each Monday I have 1-on-1s with members of our team. We each have a list of topics to cover, discussing what we need to focus on and accomplish that week. There’s often a lot of crossover.

After that, I’ll dive into broader questions to better understand where their head is at. I’ll ask things like:

What are we too focused on?
What are we not focused enough on?
Are you getting enough direction from me? Too much or too little?
What’s one thing you’d like to change?
How can I better support you?

The questions vary from week-to-week. And there’s one I asked recently that’s proved to be incredibly useful.

Background: Our operational focus for 2018 is optimization. We’re working to streamline the process of how we do everything. How we serve customers. How we build product. How we communicate with each other… everything.

Aimed in this direction I asked the following question.

“What do you ask for or get asked for repeatedly?”

This question, and the ensuing conversation, has massive benefits. Let’s list them out.

1) Context.

Creating a strong communication architecture is about enabling people to share their context. It’s why, at Moved, we have weekly All-Hands meetings and monthly “State of the Move” meetings. In those I’m sharing my context as CEO — putting the “why” behind the “what”. This question accomplishes the same thing but in the opposite direction. It allows me to better understand the context that team member is working within.

2) Empathy.

Understanding their context is a prerequisite for empathy. I’m showing that I give a shit about what they’re doing and want to help with any problems they’re facing. This creates trust — followed by an open, honest conversation.

3) Identifying Blockers & Time-Wasters.

A blocker is something that stands in the way of someone getting their job done. They’re unable to complete a task without waiting on someone else. That “someone else” then has their own work interrupted because they need to unblock their teammate. If this same request comes in constantly it becomes an annoying time-waster.

Asking the above question will quickly identify the biggest blockers and time-wasters in the company. They won’t be difficult for the team to surface. But they can only be identified if the question is asked and the platform is provided.

4) Automate & Streamline.

Once identified, the blockers and time-wasters typically aren’t difficult to get rid of. Build a feature, create a process, train somebody on something new… the solutions are easy to see. And they have a compounding impact.

By breaking down the barriers and distractions, the team is able to be more efficient and effective in their roles. On top of that, it’ll be appreciated that the company listened and quickly made changes to empower them.

5) Autonomy & Mastery.

I’m a big believer in building a strong culture. I believe you create it by giving the team 1) a sense of purpose 2) autonomy and 3) mastery. Those two sentences are an incredibly simplistic view of what could be a book (or multiple) on culture. But, for the purpose of this post, let’s focus on #2 and #3.

By identifying, automating, and streamlining the things that the team repeatedly asks for or is asked for — a certain environment is created. An environment where they can work independently and get shit done. Where they can leave others to focus on their own work and get more shit done.

It makes everyone increasingly independent and also provides them the ability to master their work. To be specialized and go deep on what they do. It’s a positive for the organization and it’s a great feeling for the individual.