“How can I help you?”
Seems like a great question to ask employees, right? As a CEO myself, I’ve directed it to my own team countless times. Turns out, I’m wrong: “How can I help you?” hurts employees more than it helps. Let me explain.
The other week, I ran a workshop. One of the participants — a CEO — was struggling to get feedback from a particularly quiet employee at his company. He asked the other folks in the room for advice about it.
“What if I asked ‘How can I help you?’ ” he pondered.
The other executives nodded their heads. “Yeah, that seems like a good idea,” they agreed.
Another participant spoke up. “I hate that question,” she admitted. “When my direct manager asks me that, I never know what to say.”
People were perplexed — myself included. But as she explained, it clicked for me. Despite being well-intentioned, here are three reasons why “How can I help you?” is a terrible question to ask your employees:
When you ask, “How can I help you?” you’re not offering any specific ideas or suggestions for how you can be more helpful.