If you’re not familiar with Humans of New York, Brandon travels the world taking photos of people and on the site he shares those photos along with some part of their story. As he discussed how he is able to accomplish this, something he said really resonated with me as an HR professional. He said one of the questions he is often asked is “How do you get people to talk?” After all, these people do not know him, they have no previous relationship with him, yet they often share intimate details of their lives with him. His response – “I just ask.”
He followed up noting the importance of getting to a place where a person is examining and unpacking an emotional, impactful part of their life. It involves intent listening, asking follow-up questions and not thinking about himself or having an agenda. This reminded me of what HR professionals are charged with doing when an employee comes to us with an issue/concern. Before we can address the concern, we need to know what it is and what’s behind it. Just as Brandon does with his photo subjects, we need to listen intently and ask follow-up questions without having an agenda. We need to make the individual feel safe enough to share with us. Psychological safety is a key component of inclusion.
The first question Brandon usually asks a person is “What is your greatest struggle right now?” I immediately thought of how helpful it would be to HR professionals to know the answer to this question when speaking with an employee who has a concern. Actually, it would be good for us to know even if they aren’t having an issue. Understanding what people are experiencing is critical to developing and maintaining an inclusive culture. People are often reluctant to talk out of fear of being exposed; however, they will also have a deep appreciation for being listened to and having their concerns validated. At the end of the day, validation outweighs fear. Ask (with genuine concern) and you will probably receive the answer. People have an innate desire to be heard and understood. PRO TIP: Employees are people.
“Safety is about intent; not content. Learn to monitor and manage safety and you can talk to anyone about anything.” – Emily Gregory, VitalSmarts
Originally posted on Tamara M. Rasberry blog.