Who cares what drives you

Leadership 101: Don’t ask if you don’t want the answer.

The worst thing performance leaders can do is ask questions when they have no intention of considering the answer in their future decisions.

A powerful example of this is the standard on-boarding question: “What drives you?”

Performance leaders usually nod at the answer and imply they will note it in the employee file for future reference. But do they?

“What drives you” is one of the most significant questions you can ask the young working force (such as millennials).

They are proud of their values and can communicate them clearly them because they’ve been blasting them all over social media for years. 

Millennials have values such as volunteering, flexible work arrangements, and freedom to schedule their day. If performance leaders ask their new hire “what drives you,” and notes it down – they’ve immediately set a standard for the new hire and future decisions.

For example, you are a new hire at a retail store. Your performance leader asks what motivates you… to which you passionately reply that flexibility in your work day means a great deal, so you can volunteer with a local not-for-profit.

The employer nods in understanding and writes it down to give the impression you’ve been heard. No further comment from the leader implies that it is OK to ask for flexibility going forward.

Imagine the disappointment when, the following week, you ask to start late and make up the time by working late to accommodate a charity event and the answer is ‘No.’ “what about the week after instead?” … met with “No” again – “that just doesn’t work for my store and our needs.”

Your No. 1 value, which the employer recognized, acknowledged and even wrote down, has been crushed – and that is the beginning of the end for a millennial.

Am I suggesting an employer should avoid that question? Absolutely not. I love the insight that question provides. However, as a performance leader, you must be ready with an explanation if the answer is not in line with how your business operates.

In that example of the retail store, the response to the flexibility issue could have been acknowledgement and then clarification that a request for time off must have two weeks notice or a vacation time arranged because of the limited open hours of the store.

The hire still feels heard, but won’t be set up for disappointment.

The bottom line is simple: Don’t ask if you don’t care or, assuming most people do care, be ready to clarify what are possible ways to incorporate that identified need in your organization or relationship immediately.

If the answer to what drives someone is not possible, say so with empathy and explan why. Eliminate the disappointment later with a real and clear conversation now.   

The more time devoted to clearly outlining what is possible with your business, relationship, or volunteering, will mean greater success for everyone involved. 

“A successful person finds the right place for themselves. But a successful leader finds the right place for others” — John Maxwell


Comments are pre-moderated to ensure they meet our guidelines. Approval times will vary. Keep it civil, and stay on topic. If you see an inappropriate comment, please use the ‘flag’ feature. Comments are the opinions of the comment writer, not of Castanet. Comments remain open for one day after a story is published and are closed on weekends. Visit Castanet’s Forums to start or join a discussion about this story.

More Mindful Communications articles

About the Author

Like most people, Christy has taken many paths. On the officially documented life list, she is a certified yoga teacher, an advanced open water diver, a financial adviser, a Harley rider and owner, an author, a community advocate.

She has been trained in coaching, negotiations and communication studies. She competed at a provincial level in competitive swimming and now has a passion for overall fitness.

On the un-documented list, Christy’s diverse experience is both positive and full of pot holes. She is the founder and CEO of a start-up company that never made it past the start-up phase. She has enough tattoos to classify as a walking adult colouring book. 

She has gone through all the identity phases at different times in her life: hippie, gothic, classy professional, biker... and is now a unique blend of them all. She a spiritual junkie and is addicted to adrenalin, learning and travel.

The bottom line: She is full of love and lessons with a hope that those who read this and connect with her will benefit from what she learned and be inspired to reach for the limitless possibilities of life.

Connect with her at:[email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

Previous Stories