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On the “Newlywed Game” television show, husbands and wives had to guess how their spouse would answer various questions. If you had to play a similar game with your employees, how would you do? All too often, we work with people every day, yet have no clue about their goals, interests, pet peeves, or life outside of work.
Thinking about your own employees, try to predict their answers to the questions below. Then gradually work the questions into your actual conversations. You are guaranteed to learn a lot. And become a better manager.
1. What would you like to be doing two years from now?
Understanding employees’ career goals can help you create a motivational workplace. People are most energized by work that may contribute to their future success.
2. How could I help to make your job easier?
You may be creating obstacles for employees of which you are completely unaware. Or you may be able to facilitate communication with other people or departments. Unless you ask, you’ll never know.
3. Which part of your job do you like best?
Assigning projects and tasks based on interests often produces the best results.
4. What’s the biggest hassle in your job?
When you understand employees’ roadblocks and headaches, sometimes you can help to reduce them. At the very least, asking about them will show that you’re concerned and sympathetic.
5. What could we do to improve overall results or make the department more effective?
Employees often have ideas for improvement that go beyond their individual responsibilities.
6. What would you like to learn?
Encouraging employees to increase their knowledge and improve their skills will make your whole operation more successful. To keep up with the pace of change, everyone must keep learning.
7. What do you see as your greatest accomplishment this year?
Although most people are uncomfortable bragging, almost everyone enjoys talking about their successes. So follow up with detailed questions about each person’s achievement.
8. How could we make work more fun?
“Fun” doesn’t have to mean a daily party. Anything that makes coming to work more enjoyable will improve morale.
9. What are the strengths and weaknesses of this department?
Although employees are usually reluctant to give their boss personal feedback, they are often quite willing to critique operations. This information can help you improve policies, procedures, and processes.
10. How are your [kids, vacation plans, dogs, home improvements, or whatever]?
While you never want to ask intrusive questions about your employees’ personal lives, you do want to show an interest. After all, these are people, not just widgets.