Transforming culture sounds like such a huge endeavour, and often, it is.  Culture, in basic terms, is “the ways we do things around here”, and it’s all about people, because people do things, and they do them based on habits formed over years of differing and unique experiences.  Sometimes, however, it is the simplest of behavioural techniques that are the most powerful, and even when you know the psychology behind them, they don’t in any way lose their impact.


Now as any good coach knows, questions, and particularly open questions, are powerful tools for getting people to think, to think differently, and to feel empowered to change, act, and find their own solutions to problems.  If we want to transform culture, we need more of these questions, because it is a critical mass of people that changes culture, and those people must want and feel empowered to make the change.

As well as getting people to think differently, we also need to encourage improvement.  We need our employees to improve themselves, because “being the change” is the starting point for “leading the change”.  And when they improve themselves, the next natural step is for them to start improving their environment, because confident, positive employees nearly always become leaders of positive change.  So how do we get the ball rolling?

That’s a very good question, and questions – just two in fact – are where we start.

When employees are tasked with continuous improvement, and let’s face it, if you stand still you go backwards with today’s incredible pace of change, then the first thing they often do is start looking for where things are not going right.  It seems like a logical place to start, but is it?

Of course, it is logical, but the thing is, human beings are always involved in the process, and they are not always logical.   We think logically, but emotions are a big factor in our thinking, our decisions and our behaviour.

There are two simple questions that provide great impetus for change, and make people feel good in the process.  And it’s all about how we give feedback.  When we want to find improvement opportunities in our workplaces, the ownership only happens when the workers themselves are involved in the change and have uncovered the improvement opportunities themselves.  And they will only act on those opportunities with a degree of self-belief and a large dollop of confidence.  And here’s how you do it.

Question number 1 – What’s good about what you are doing?

Question number , “What’s good about you are doing?” has to be the first question you ask an employee, because this will allow them to reflect on all the good things he or she is doing, and this not only builds confidence and motivation, but also perspective  Focusing only on the negative reduces confidence, and leads to a culture of blame and a fear of making mistakes, when we know that mistakes are essential, because they lead to learning.  If an employee struggles to find the good in their performance, keep asking the question, and asking “what else”, until the confidence, and the perspective, builds.

Question number 2 – What would make your work even better?

Question number 2, “What would make your work even better?”, is an extremely powerful question.  It is carefully constructed to uncover improvement opportunities without any hint of a negative in the question.  It also contains the linguistic assumption that the work is already good, through the words “even better”.  Using the cleverly worded question opens the employee’s thinking to uncover their own improvement opportunities, and because of its positive wording, and because it is preceded by the employee thinking about what they do well, it yields dividends!

So there you have it – a technique for giving feedback that is so simple anyone can use it, and when everyone in a company is using it, it transforms culture.  Everyone becomes confident change leaders, and Employee Confidence grows.  Imagine the impact of this kind of culture on the value of your human capital, and the resulting business performance!

“Employee Confidence – the new rules of Engagement” launches on 26th April.  To pre-order your copy, click on the link below.