As leaders and managers, quite often we run our teams and companies on auto-pilot. We have a gut feeling of how we are doing. We think we know what our employees are doing and what they are thinking. For any leader like me and you, that gut feeling is very important. But it needs input to work well.
Do we really know what the current status in our team or with a single employee is? Often we don't. Weeks or months can fly by in our busy days with no reflection on these issues. I'm often personally guilty of that as well. You need a system.
Instead of speeding along the highway of our business, sometimes it's good to take a step back. Dedicate some time and get some deeper insights into your team's and employees' thinking and doing.
How? Sometimes the best way is the simplest. Why not ask your employees? Do it directly. Take guesswork out of the equation. Don't assume. You ask and you get answers. Then let your gut feeling do it's processing. Feed your gut feeling with something concrete.
Two types of questions to ask
At Weekdone, we're the masters of helping thousands of managers ask their employees weekly questions. Using our software (you can try it), tens of thousands of employees tell their leaders weekly one of two things.
First: What do they think? What are the insights, emotions and lessons learned? It's good for understanding what your people think and feel, or getting ideas and suggestions. You open your team members up and get them engaged.
Second: What are they doing? What are their accomplishments, goals and challenges. It's great for knowing the details of your team's work, or managing tasks and getting assignments done.
10 questions to ask right now
Here are ten questions to ask your team members already today. Try it, using either just one or a couple of them. These examples below are mostly of the first type – getting people to tell about their thoughts and feelings, not their tasks.
You can take this just as a one-time exercise or set up a tool like Weekdone to collect ideas and feedback and be informed on a weekly basis. The times or annual performance reviews are over – people want to communicate with their leaders on a regular basis. So here we are with the sample questions you could ask all your employees already today:
What was your biggest win last week and what did you learn from it?
How did you feel at work this week and why so?
Did something at work make you happy or sad this week?
One thing that was really great or bad in our team this week?
Which of your co-workers would you praise this week and why?
If there's one thing you would change at work, what would it be?
One thing we should improve as a team?
As a team, what could we do differently next week?
Suggest one improvement for our company we should implement
What's the one thing holding you or the team back?
Remember: these are just examples. Think of your actual needs and interests. Would you like to know more about the future or the past? Would you like to get insights about problems or things that are going great? Do you need to assess a single employee or instead find out who of their co-workers do others value? The possibilities are endless.
Including time definitions like this or last week helps the people focus on things that are concrete and practical. Try to paint a box around the area in which you want your answers to be. Just asking "How are you doing?" makes it really hard for anyone to answer in writing. Also try to separate questions so they focus either on the future – what needs to be done, what are the ideas – or the past – lessons learned and what could be done better next time.
What we've found out from Weekdone customers is the ideal number of questions to ask any week is a maximum of 3-4 questions. It's your choice, if you make them all obligatory or have your people answer just a few of them.
You could send out the questions via e-mail, use a form or special employee reporting solution like Weekdone, which automates all of it.
What are your experiences with asking your team these kind of questions? How do you get your employees to love this kind of interaction?
Which are some that you have found valuable and suggest others to use? What has worked and what not?
Share your experiences in the comments below.