Build rapport and morale with these coaching questions.

The best leaders in any industry make managing people look easy when in reality, it’s anything but! In nearly every survey on employee engagement, the top reasons cited for why employees quit or feel disengaged tie directly back to management. Poor communication, a lack of feeling supported or valued, and unclear career pathing are all common threads that cause lost morale and costly turnover.

So how does a committed manager combat these top three detractors? The answers could lie in changing the questions you ask in staff interactions that you’re already having – at staff check-in, in the breakroom, at shift-end, or in regular performance management conversations. I asked people who work in many different industries to share the questions asked by managers that resonated the most, made them feel supported, and inspired them to do their best work. Here are ten of the best.

Question # 1: What is the best thing that happened (on shift today, yesterday, etc.)?

Reflection is a terrific tool to help your team identify their own strengths and weaknesses, and connect with your facility’s purpose and values. Like developing a gratitude habit, this question helps the team member look for positive moments that happen each day, which has been proven to boost overall happiness, morale, and improve decision-making capabilities.

Question # 2: Looking back on the shift/day/week, what could have gone better?

It’s also useful for team members to reflect on what didn’t go well. Use open-ended questions rather than those with yes/no answers to encourage team members to give more thoughtful answers. You’ll identify training or coaching opportunities, and be able to help team members express their feelings about challenges before they take root as real problems. As in sales, if you ask the right questions, your team will tell you everything necessary for you to provide them with what they need (and want).

Question #3: What is the most meaningful part of your job? or What inspires you at work?

Inspired team members are more motivated to do their best work so great leaders learn what inspires their people. You might uncover that a team member loves to work with fundraiser groups and that she would feel inspired to seek out charities for your volunteer work. Or you might find a cafe worker really thrives on making kids laugh at their tables and might be a good candidate for your party team.

Question #4: How can I help you? or What obstacles are in your way that I can remove?

Employees like managers who want to help, but not do it for them. Show them you care about the challenges they’re facing and build a relationship where they feel comfortable coming to you when they need support. From there, uncover their ideas for resolution and give encouragement and guidance where appropriate. This will help your team member feel supported and develop their own problem-solving skills.

Question #5: Think about the way we do things. Could any of our steps or processes be better? How so?

Trust the people who do the work. They often can see things that you don’t. It’s a good idea to routinely assess processes so that your business can continue to improve. Asking team members to consider business processes not only helps you identify inefficiencies but also encourages staff to take ownership of their roles within your company.

Question #6: What do you think about…

As you strengthen your relationship with each team member, find ways to ask their opinions and thoughts about departmental initiatives and challenges. It’s ok to show a little vulnerability by sharing some of what you’re focused on as a leader. I like to say, “let them see you sweat, but not break down.” Always act appropriately and professionally, but providing some transparency into issues can get team members to buy in, share their thoughts, and be willing to take on some of the burdens with you.

Question #7: In our last team meeting, did you have any thoughts that you weren’t able to share your thoughts? Would you like to share them now?

Some team members feel free to express their thoughts in a group while others prefer more private conversations so give all team members a safe space to share. Also, you might uncover some team conflict that might prevent them from speaking out publicly that you need to address.

Question #8: Over the next month/quarter/year, what would you like to learn at our facility?

Provide ample opportunities for staff to cross-train in your facility. You never know when you’ll need them to jump in to help a different department, or when a summer job turns into a sales or management career in our industry. Help staff remain curious and excited about your business and learn more than one position or process and give them opportunities to grow.

Question #9: What would you like to be doing a year from now?

Sure, you might hear that your team member is going off to college and not interested in working for your facility long term, but it’s still a good question to ask. As many team members’ first employer, you have an opportunity to help mold them into the adults and citizens they’re going to be. Use this power wisely and help them learn things at your business that will help not only your organization and guests but also their personal futures. The best leaders I know still have past employees coming back to share the impact their previous bosses made on their lives.

Question #10: Let’s do this together.

Ok so not a question, but getting into the weeds with team members helps them see you as part of the team. Get in and get your hands dirty to show that no one is above any job at the facility. Teach them side by side and you build rapport, ensure process accuracy, and can gauge understanding throughout the training session.

These are just a few helpful questions that could help you build stronger relationships with your team and improve your work culture. For even more useful questions, check out this blog from engagement experts at 15Five.

Have other effective coaching questions? Share them with us in the comments or on Twitter.


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