8 questions a manager should ask direct reports during reviews

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While employees may look forward to reviews or scheduled one-on-ones to get advice from their manager, these conversations offer managers an opportunity to learn new things from their employees too. The best way to do this is to ask the right questions.

The Business Journals

During employee reviews and meetings, managers can ask questions of their employees to gain insight into different perspectives of the company or to learn more about their team. Here, eight members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share the essential questions that managers should ask.

1. What makes the company an attractive place to work?
If the employee has been at the firm for a while, what makes them stay? What are we doing as a company to make this an attractive place to work? You can learn a lot from the positive aspects of your workplace. – Bruce Weber, Weber Group

2. Are there any doors I can open for you right now?
Ask if there are any roadblocks you can take out of their way or doors you can open for them right now. This question indicates your confidence in your direct report’s skills and that you are willing to empower them to do their best work. – Rebecca Thorburn, Visible Impact

3. How are you?
As a manager, your goal is to help people. To help people, you do need to have a relationship. Even though it is a professional relationship, it does need to be there. Take time to see how they are doing and how things are going in their personal lives. Asking questions to see how their life is going will provide a lot of answers on the “why” relating to work performance. Start with, “How are you?” – Zane Stevens, Protea Financial

4. What motivates you and your work?
It’s always great to find out what truly motivates someone to understand what they love about their work or what processes they think can be optimized to continue to strive for improvement. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

5. How can I help provide you tools, resources and training?
An essential question that managers should ask is, “How can I help you?” The manager is there to ensure the employees have all the tools, resources and training to deliver the required outcomes. Regularly asking how you can help them reaffirms you are there to help when the need arises. – Laura Doehle, Elevation Business Consulting

6. What ‘wins’ would you like me to acknowledge?
Beyond asking how you can be of service to your team, I’ve found asking a few personal questions helps build rapport and encourages the free flow of information. I’ve also asked about the “wins” they would like me or us to acknowledge as they are important in increasing confidence and appreciation for management. – Kent Lewis, Anvil Media, Inc.

7. What are you working on that you’re excited about?
It’s helpful to create space to reflect on their work and how they’re doing overall, beyond the status updates or challenges to discuss. This means asking things like, “What are you working on that you’re most excited about?” or “What is frustrating you lately?” to continue for both you and them to hone in on who they are, what is meaningful work to them and possible changes to consider. – Amy Marshall, Slalom

8. How do you rate job satisfaction?
One of the most revealing questions I ask is, “On a scale of one to 10, how would you rate your job satisfaction?” If the rating isn’t a 10, “What would make it a 10?” This provides actionable input for you as a manager. – Kimberly Lucas, Goldstone Partners

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