6 Questions Great Leaders Ask Employees

5 min Article
Caring managers not only look after their employees’ best interests, but also learn something from them.
6 Questions Great Leaders Ask Employees

“I’m not your manager. Consider me your friend.”

It is quite common for an employee to hear this. In fact, nothing would make them happier to have an ally who encourages personal and professional growth. However, these “friends” are often the ones who forget to check-in with their co-workers, set unrealistic deadlines and demand an immediate response to an 11 pm e-mail.

So, what kind of a manager are you? Friendly or distant?

In case you want to switch from the latter to the former, here are a few questions you need to start asking your employees:

How are things at home?

Diving right into the agenda of the meeting may save time but doesn’t allow any room for team bonding and employee wellness activities. Whether you’re having a team meeting or a one-on-one session, always ask your employees how things are in their personal lives. Sometimes, personal grievances may seep into the professional sphere and this helps in understanding any behavioral change you may have noticed recently. If required, give them some time off to help them sort out things at home.

Celebrate their personal milestones and achievements like running a marathon, their kids’ birthday, anniversaries, buying a new house. Shared moments of grief and celebration brings people together and can increase energy at work. Most importantly, it shows them that you care.

Is there anyone in the company that you would like to learn from?

Once you’ve established trust and rapport, ask your employees about their career goals. They may be happy in their current roles, but everyone seeks guidance to grow. Do they admire someone’s work ethic? Is there someone within their team, or outside, whom they want to learn from? These questions are critical to understand how they see their career progression.

If there’s a new skill they want to learn, support them. The more they learn, the more insights they bring to your team with fresh ideas. Caring managers encourage employees to liaise with teams or people that they can learn from to support their growth.

How can we help in boosting your productivity at work?

This question doesn’t necessarily imply that you think they are unproductive. Convey to them that this is just to understand what you or the organization can do to help increase energy at work and raise the bar for excellence. This could range from better ergonomics and work equipment to more team bonding activities for enhancing workplace wellbeing. You’ll be surprised to know that sometimes a simple ‘thank you’ or an encouraging smile, high-five or fist bump can do wonders for their morale and productivity.

Employee appreciation and understanding what drives your team is key to becoming a caring manager. Employees trust their leaders to make their working experience more enjoyable and productive, and asking this question is a step in the right direction.

What's the biggest problem in your team right now?

Introspection is essential to progress. For any team or individual to be successful, it is important to take a step back and see what’s helping you and what isn’t. Is there a communication gap? Are your employees feeling overwhelmed by work and hence, unable to take care of their mental wellbeing? Ask them about their biggest obstacles and try to arrive at a solution together, if possible.

If you tie a balloon to a rock, it will never fly. Find the rock that’s bogging down your employees and help them be free of it. Not only will it be a mood booster and increase productivity, but it will also make them trust you and look up to you.

Is there something or someone bringing you down at work?

Workplace stress is not always limited to workload. Sometimes, it can be a ‘who,’ rather than a ‘what’ that makes your employees feel overwhelmed at workplace. One of the biggest causes for absenteeism is employees trying to avoid a certain colleague or project that’s stressing them out. To begin with, try to observe your employees and, if possible, ask their reporting managers about the dynamic within their teams.

As the next step, ask employees directly what’s bothering them at work. If it’s the workload, reporting managers should be asked to divide work equally amongst their teams. Sometimes, a few members may be working more to cover up for those slacking at work. In this case, managers must have a conversation with their teams to insist on equal division of work to avoid burnout.

What’s one thing I should keep doing as a manager and one thing I can be better at?

Taking feedback is crucial to being open with your employees. Constructive criticism is a two-way street. If you’re offering suggestions to your employees, be open to learning from them too. Maybe you’re doing something that’s contributing to their lack of wellbeing at work. If it’s something you can work on, your next meeting will probably be more positive!

Caring managers not only look after their employees’ best interests, but also learn something from them. Instead of getting offended, try to understand the reason behind their feedback and ask for examples when you acted a certain way, so you can do better. After all, good leaders breed good employees.

Is there anything else you do to be a caring manager for your employees? Let us know in the comments! 

Cover image sourced from Shutterstock

About the Teacher

Prakriti Bhat

Prakriti Bhat

View profile