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Two Great Questions to Get Your Employees Thinking

— by Jay Forte

Business goalsHuman resourcesSocial learningTraining

Most employees are great about showing up on time every day. Significantly fewer show up fully present — ready to make a difference with customers and the business. Many employees don’t pack their brains when they pack their lunches because many managers don’t ask their employees to think at work.

Sixty-five percent of employees do just enough not to get fired, according to statistics presented in Marcus Buckingham’s book, First Break All the Rules. His work with the Gallup Organization looked to define what degree employees are thinking and engaged in the workplace. This means more than half of employees don’t actively think their way through the day — they just follow the rules, do what they are told and little more.

Following the rules might be fine if the workplace didn’t change so significantly and so quickly. But as author and consultant Tom Peters points out, “We are in a brawl with no rules.” The workplace constantly changes and the greatest value an employee can provide is to constantly watch, actively assess then critically respond. This requires an employee to be engaged, focused, thinking and present.

Most managers do not take advantage of the thinking power of their employees. They seem content to have their employees simply do their jobs; they do not actively tap into their ideas, thinking and creativity. This wastes one of the most significant assets of the organization — the intellectual capital — the thinking power of the employee.

So how do you get an employee to think? Get in the habit of asking every employee these two questions every day.

1. “What if…?”

2. “What are two ways to …?”

Here are some examples:

  • What if we had the resources to launch an important new product, what might that be?
  • What if we allow employees to work more flexible hours, what would that do to performance?
  • What if we eliminated two of our products or services; what would the impact be on customers?
  • What are two ways to improve our marketing to our customers?
  • What are two ways to create more fun and camaraderie in the workplace?
  • What are two ways to attract great candidates to our company using social networking?

The format of the question isn’t as important as the discipline to constantly ask employees what they think. In a world where information doubles every several years, managers do not have all the answers; they require the input and thinking of their employees. Tap into the resource you fund every week with your payroll. Get them to think.

> More about employee training and retention on the Mindflash blog.

Jay Forte, a former financial executive and corporate educator, now business and motivational speaker, greatness coach and author, is a nationally ranked Thought Leader and President of Humanetrics. Jay guides organizations – their leaders and managers – in how to attract, hire and retain today’s best talent. He coaches individuals in how to reconnect to their talents and passions to achieve extraordinary personal and professional performance.

Jay is the author of Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition (March 2009), The Greatness Zone – Know Yourself, Find Your Fit, Transform The World (October 2010).

Jay is a member of SHRM, ASTD, the National Speakers Association and the Florida Speakers Association. His tools, writing and thinking can be found at and


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