3 Questions Every Manager Should Ask

​As a manager, you’re responsible for teaching your reports new skills, and helping them develop professionally to unlock their ...

​As a manager, you’re responsible for teaching your reports new skills, and helping them develop professionally to unlock their potential in their current position.

It’s a big role—and it can be even more challenging when they have different work styles, goals, and abilities from yours.

How can you bridge the gap? Asking good questions makes a difference. These three let you figure out what your employees are thinking, struggling with, and hoping to achieve.

1. “What’s your take?”

When your reports come to you with an issue or request, your first instinct probably is to tell them what to do.

However, you’ll miss a valuable opportunity to help them grow. They’ll learn more if they develop a solution or answer by themselves—with encouragement from you, of course.

Let’s say you’re a sales manager, and one of your reps, Samantha, says, “I’m having trouble with this part of the sales process. What do you recommend?”

Rather than immediately saying, “Do such and such,” turn the question around and ask, “What are your ideas?”

This exercise will empower Samantha, make her more independent, and solve her problem in one fell swoop.

2. “Have you tried…?”

Sometimes it isn’t feasible to allow your employee to find an answer on their own. Maybe it’s a time-sensitive issue or simply a very high-stakes situation. In any case, you need to give them directions right away.

But, for the best results, don’t phrase your directions as a statement. Your report might reply, “Oh, yeah, I’ve already done that, and it didn’t work [for this reason].”

Not only will you lose a little credibility, but some reports will feel uncomfortable challenging you and might just say nothing—meaning they’ll walk away without a solution.

The better approach is asking, “Have you tried X?” If the answer is yes, you can offer another idea. And if the answer is no, say, “That’s what I’d recommend.”

3. “How comfortable are you with your current projects and responsibilities on a scale from one to ten?”

Regularly gauging how challenged your employees feel is an important part of keeping them engaged. When they feel too comfortable—a five or lower on the scale—they’ll get bored. Plus, they won’t be learning anything new, which means you’re limiting their career growth.

When they feel too much out of their comfort zone—an eight or higher—they’ll be stressed, unproductive, and unhappy.

If you ask this question on a monthly basis, you’ll be able to balance their workload so they’re always a six or seven. As an added benefit, your employees will appreciate your concern.