How one HR leader uses open-ended questions to help employees realize their strengths and values.
Success is hard to come by when you aren’t clear on your strengths and values. All too often folks are stuck, whether disengaged or underutilized, within organizations. The answers needed to find success are within us all, but sometimes it takes the right person to pull them out. Throughout her time in HR at Cargill and now Fluke Corporation, Studio/E member Tiana Martin has done just that — help employees extract their own answers from within. When you start with what you have (what we call current means), you begin to think in a growth mindset.
You identify who you know, what you know and the skills you already have. Often, this is all you need for a first step toward success. We talked to Tiana about keeping employees engaged, ensuring alignment with a company’s mission, and the difference between a coach and a mentor.
Studio/E: What’s a common thread you see that gets in the way of peoples’ success?
Tiana: A lack of clarity and accountability. It’s important to be clear and help people understand their roles. That’s where the accountability comes in. When it comes to new opportunities, you don’t need to be perfect, just try something. Success is about being true to yourself — knowing and understanding yourself. And when you understand yourself, possibilities open up.
Studio/E: How do you hold people accountable to high standards?
Tiana: It goes back to coaching. Instead of having a fixed goal for 12 months, I prefer an open dialogue between manager and employee. Things change rapidly now and the conversations are an opportunity to give and receive feedback in real-time. It’s about bringing the employee along on a journey and appropriately managing expectations through job performance.
Studio/E: How do you deal with talent that isn’t aligned with the company’s purpose?
Tiana: The first question I ask is, are you on the right bus? The next question is, are you on the right seat on that bus? Are you in the right role in the right department? Are your skills, experiences and strengths being leveraged appropriately? I have seen multiple times when the employee either is not happy or not engaged, which leads to performance issues. Alignment is about understanding what their core values are, what is critically important to them, and then finding opportunities that align with them.
Studio/E: How do you identify employees’ core values?
Tiana: I help them reveal where they are by asking open-ended questions, like what’s engaging you? What’s not engaging to you? What do you like? What do you not like? Do you go home with a bucket full of energy? Or are you empty?
Studio/E: Coaching is important to you. What’s the difference between a coach and a mentor?
Tiana: A mentor shares his or her own insights and experiences, whereas a coach helps you discover. You already know the answer, consciously or unconsciously, and a coach’s job is to draw it out so that you can own it, articulate and honor yourself.
Studio/E: What advice do you have for leaders, HR or otherwise, wanting to inspire and motivate their team?
Tiana: Be curious. Have the desire to learn at least one thing new each day — and not just internally. Look to networks, go to trade conferences, get a coach. Ask yourself, how do I stay on top of my game? How do I be the best in my field?
Be a co-active coach. Make your team feel comfortable and develop a relationship of trust, candor and vulnerability. Ask open-ended questions that reveal the answers within them. Michael Bungay Stanier’s book, The Coaching Habit, has great questions to start with. Be empathetic and make your team feel that they are important and they matter to you.
Be humble. Yes, you got to where you are for a reason. But you, like everyone else, don’t have all the answers. Admit it and show vulnerability by saying, “I don’t know but we’re going to figure this out together.”
The answers are within us all; sometimes we just need the nudge from someone like Tiana to help us dig them out. Be honest with yourself and the answers will appear.
Name: Tiana Martin, Senior HR Business Partner, Fluke Corporation
Headquarters: Everett, WA
Description: A manufacturer, distributor and service provider for electronic test tools and software.
Tiana’s desire: To invest in people for them to realize their full potential.
Studio/E Competency: Current Means: What you have to move forward right now (think who you know, what you know, what you have).
Nate Garvis (left) and Tom Wiese are founding partners of Studio/E. They are both Senior Fellows at the Lewis Institute’s Social Innovation Lab at Babson College, as well as co-owners of Earn Influence, a consulting firm that helps its cool clients profitably travel into the unknown with clarity and confidence.