Leadership Lesson: “?” or “.”

I was talking to my supervisor today about how he talks to his staff. 

Tell me again what you happened,” I said. “What did Camille answer you?”

“I asked her why she didn’t fill in the inventory sheet as she should have done,” replied my supervisor Ryan. “She answered me and said it was because she didn’t have any excess sheets available, and I only gave it to her last January 3.”

“The job of writing the inventory sheet lies on the sales staff,” I said. “Why did she turn it around and made the issue of her not doing her job your problem?”

“How about you?” I turned to my other supervisor. “Josefina (your staff) is late all the time.”

I kept on asking why she is late,” she answered. “I am asking her to correct the habit immediately.”

I sat down my supervisors.

Why do you keep on asking your staff QUESTIONS?” I said. “You don’t need to ask them why they are late, why they haven’t done what they’re supposed to do, and why they haven’t sold anything yet.”

“They are the staff. You are not asking for their permission. The instruction isn’t a request. It was an order.”

One of the biggest issues in managing staff in the Philippines is that they always have a ready excuse on why they’re not doing things.

Ask them why they aren’t selling, and they will blame the customers. “But ma’m, many people ask but they’re just not buying.”

Ask them why they’re late and they will blame the traffic.

Ask them why they didn’t file the forms, and they will say that it’s because they’re too busy “selling” (even though their sales figures don’t show it).

Ask them why things aren’t done, and they’ll suegwey and put the blame on someone else.

It’s a big problem — pushing one’s faults to someone else. As if they can’t do anything. That’s one of the most frustrating things about managing people.

It’s almost never their fault. 

Point out the issue, and they’ll always justify the fault with something else. As it they’re the victims, and not the ones making a mistake.

This is the lesson — When managing staff, give instructions (in a nice way). Make sure they’re done. Stop asking questions!


“Remove the question marks when you talk to the staff.” I said.

Don’t ask them why they’re late. Tell them they were late x times over the last 15 days.

Don’t ask they why they still haven’t sold anything. Tell them that they’ve been at the store for x hours and they still haven’t sold anything.

Don’t ask them why they haven’t filed the forms. Tell them to file the forms now, and to do it right in front of you.

Don’t ask them why they haven’t done something they should have done as part of their job descriptions. Tell them to do it NOW.

Asking questions is for everyone else. We ask questions and get consent with the people around us because they’re doing things as a favor to us. We want to be nice and polite and respectful, and we ask because they don’t need to do it, but we want people to do so.

But our staff know their jobs. They were fully oriented what their job descriptions were from the beginning, and the instructions are clear.

They must be done.

Stop with the “?s.”

Talk with the “.” or “!”

My friends, when dealing with staff, change the way you talk. You can still be polite and respectful even when giving instructions. However, asking questions show doubt and allow the staff to undermine authority.

State the facts. Give instructions, and make sure they’re done.

And I believe that you’ll be a better leader for it. Happy Sunday!

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