How can I help you?
When this editor’s father was doing consulting it was his habit to ask employees what, from their perspective, needed to be done. The employees always knew, and their management almost never asked.
In well-run companies this is not the case. We recently spoke with a man who has spent his life in the financial markets, and he commented on the difference in top management between very successful financial firms and less successful financial firms.
In the first firm for which he worked, he looked up from a call to see the head of the company standing by his desk. When he (somewhat hurriedly) finished the call, his boss’s boss’s boss introduced himself, and took him to a conference room where he apologized for taking so long before stopping by, explaining that he had been out of the country. He told him that he hoped he would enjoy working for the company, and that he would be very successful. He went on to tell the new employee that he hoped he would sell so much that he would make more than he, the company head, made, and said that if there were anything he could do to make sales easier, his door was always open.
In a subsequent employment the head of the firm would appear at least every two or three weeks to say hello, and would regularly ask employees how they made their money, and what he could do to make them more successful. If they said they didn’t know, he would ask them how he was supposed to help them if they didn’t tell him what they needed.
Our guy briefly worked for a firm in which he never met the head of his group. This was a bad sign, but a clear sign that he should leave, and that the company would not do as well as it should.
There may be a wide range of reasons why problems occur and are not solved, but in many cases when problems occur the solutions are known. If you ask, you will probably get the answer you need. If you listen to the answer and take action, you and your firm are likely to be the better for it.