Although in its third season, I recently started watching a TV show called “New Amsterdam”. The pilot episode starts off with a new medical director arriving at his new workplace: a public hospital that is underfunded, understaffed, and poorly run. He is the leader of the organization, and his first question to the staff is “How can I help?”. This question continues throughout the episodes despite the expectation that the boss directs, and his direct reports follow.
As the CEO of a few companies, I am leading a few different groups. We strive to get tasks completed, and move forward with new strategies and initiatives. But while watching New Amsterdam, I have asked myself WHY I haven’t asked my coworkers often “how can I help?”. I realize that when I am working with our clients, they acknowledge that they need assistance. Often times, they know what needs to get done, but they don’t have enough time to execute. I typically tell them that we are here to supplement their team to make them successful. We will do whatever they do not want to do so that we can complete the project successfully and collaboratively.
And this is the point. By asking “how can I help?”, you change the landscape from being hierarchical to collaborative. As the leader, you can break the barriers that the staff encounters. This can happen by approving their ideas, funding the tools that they need, or even making a call to get others onboard. Most of these items are easy to do, and can be so empowering to the team.
I’ve found that when I’ve asked our staff, the support team & board members for non-profit organizations, and my family “How can I help?”, they usually give me action items that are not so far-fetched. But are we asking the question often enough? I am challenging myself to be more proactive with this, and I hope that you will take this on as well.