As eager as you may be to make your mark as a new manager by moving forward quickly with changes you think are needed, slow down. Know your team to improve engagement. You need to invest the time get to know your new team as individuals first. If you humbly ask about their perspectives and experiences, you will learn a lot personally and professionally and avoid costly new manager mistakes.
7 Questions to Get to Know Your Team to Improve Engagement
To get to know your new direct reports so that you can begin to establish a healthy and productive working relationship, here are seven questions to ask them that can jump-start the process. Your individual sessions should not feel to them like a survey but more like an open two-way conversation between two working partners to help improve employee engagement.
- How Would You Describe Your Preferred Working and Communication Style?
We know from taking a situational approach to leadership research that different employees have different working styles. Unfortunately, 54% of leaders report using only one leadership style. That means that leaders are using the wrong leadership style to meet the needs of their people half of the time.
Some employees like to work on their own with only an occasional check-in by the boss; others prefer to work in meaningful collaboration with their teammates and want to know that their boss is close at hand. Some are introverted and shy about sharing their thoughts; others more readily share their feelings and opinions. Each style has its value. What you need as a manager is to understand the individual styles on your team and lead them accordingly.
- What Do You Enjoy About the Work You Do?
Here’s an opportunity to learn what assignments a team member likes best and where their strengths lie. The answers should help guide you to evaluate various tasks and delegate them where they will most efficiently be handled.
- What Do You Find Most Stressful or Frustrating?
Just as the previous questions leads you to strengths, this question leads you to possible areas of development. It helps enormously to be aware of where team members may need extra help, support, supervision, or professional development. It also should point out cultural and process areas for improvement.
- How Do You Prefer to Receive Constructive Feedback?
It is by far most effective to give feedback on the spot. But until you understand how such feedback will be received, it is best to tailor your timing to each individual. Some workers appreciate the timely coaching so they avoid missteps; others don’t want attention drawn to their behavior until it can be done in private.
- How Do You Prefer to Be Recognized and Rewarded for Work Well Done?
Again, it is all about the individual’s needs and unique situation. Know beforehand whether the one deserving praise wants it public or would prefer a note or simple aside. Smart leaders know how to reward and engage employees by making gestures meaningful, relevant, and proportional to the effort and value.
- What Would Be Most Useful to You In Our One-On-One Times?
Highly engaged employees rate one-on-one meetings with their boss as their number one communication preference. Design your one-on-one meetings with your direct reports in a way to increase engagement. Give your team members a chance to reflect upon how these sessions could be of greatest benefit to you both.
The key is to establish open communication where you can trust your reports to be honest and straightforward and they can trust you to be respectful and to care.
- How Can I Best Support You?
This may be the most important question of all. Here’s where you can learn how you can help them to do their best work in a way that makes sense for their unique situation and career aspirations. How can you help them feel happy and productive? What are their career ambitions?
The Bottom Line
The better you know your new team as individuals with different styles, strengths, weaknesses, and dreams, the better you will be able to engage, develop, and retain them to achieve overall team success.
To learn more about how to increase team performance, download 3 Must-Have Ingredients of High Performing Teams for New Managers