In business, we are often so results-focused that we can discourage the disruptive thinking that leads to success. But curiosity is vital for building thriving companies and for fostering healthy relationships between managers and co-workers. Asking good questions gives you the power to solicit quality employee feedback, spark innovation, avoid fire-drills, and help employees show-up as their best selves.
Asking questions lets us take a second look at what we hold to be true and what we view as false. When we ask questions, we begin to see that the "truth" is often based on subjective beliefs that can be reinvented or transformed.
When we focus more on answers than questions, we deprive everyone of an opportunity to grow. Relationships suffer, because nothing makes people feel more marginalized than telling them your impressions about their experiences, feelings, or motivations. But asking direct question about another's experience allows them to feel more seen, heard, and fulfilled.
The Great eBook of Employee Questions has arrived. It contains 70 questions, broken down by category and accompanied by explanations of why you should ask them. We want to help you build your culture, inspire progress, increase morale, and achieve a host of other desired business outcomes. We have also included top questions that top thought leaders, entrepreneurs, and 15Five customers have used to create success with their teams.
Below you will find 14 questions to ask your team plus a bonus question from our Genius Question Bank:
Building Company Culture
Merriam-Webster recently named "Culture" as the word of the year, which will tell you how important it is for your business.
1) What are 5-10 qualities that you think are must-haves for new hires in terms of culture fit?
Finding a candidate who can do the work is one challenge, but hiring for culture-fit is arguably more important. Now you can intelligently design an interview process and to find out if people display these qualities.
2) What process can be fixed or improved?
Simple or complex, allowing your employees to speak up on process empowers them and keeps them constantly thinking of making things better for everyone.
3) Which company value would you like to have a new high mark in? (as in, which do you feel you aren't living to its potential?)
Company values are the compass by which autonomous employees steer, and this question keeps the values top of mind. Some of our values are Keep Things Simple and Commit to Customer Success and Delight. So when any employees face a decision they can ask, "Am I over-complicating this? How would this impact our customers?"
Coaching Is The New Managing
Employees want to grow in their roles, and a manager's job is to help them get there. Asking questions helps people to start working on solutions for themselves.
4) What do you need help with? This week? This month?
Remember when a week was 7 days and a month was 30 or 31? In business, time moves at an accelerated pace. This question also widens the lens on objectives so that people are focusing on the now without losing sight of the not too distant future.
5) Anything in your work world that's less than stellar/causing frustration or delays?Sometimes something peripheral can have a tremendous impact on getting things done. It could be a noisy office space or IT issues. After a while, employees might just "deal with it" instead of enrolling someone who can actually resolve the issues.
6) Are you crystal clear on your role and what you should be working on? If not, what aspects aren't clear?Working hard and being busy doesn't impress anyone, so you can stop running around the office with a furrowed brow. For any given task an employee should be able to answer what exactly they are doing and why. What team and company objectives does it contribute to?
7) Reflection: looking back on the week, is there anything that could have gone better?Recollecting the details of a long week of multitasking, meetings, getting to inbox zero, and putting out fires can be difficult. Try adding entries to a work journal at the end of every day so that you can do a weekly post-mortem and optimize your workflow.
While often intangible, morale still has a powerful impact on the flow of the company. Here's a handful of questions to promote positive energy.
8) What inspires you to succeed every day?
We can chalk challenges up to "having a bad day" or we can be way more analytical. Create the realization that employees can seek people or experiences that will influence their success.
9) What is the most meaningful part of your job?
Dan Pink compiled a wealth of research to determine that we are motivated by autonomy, mastery, and purpose or meaning. This question directs an employee's focus to what is most meaningful, thereby increasing their motivation.
10) On a scale of 1 to 10, how happy are you? Why?
When your team is happy, they not only come up with better solutions, but their satisfaction also helps to build a culture of high performance and low turnover.
Let's Have Some Fun
At work? Are you kidding? Interjecting levity may seem like a waste of time, but think of it as a release valve to keep people performing at their peak.
11) When do you have the most fun at work?
After a rough or stressful week, asking this question can provide a much needed reminder that people do indeed have a good time at the office. If the answer is "never", it's time to presence the importance of downtime.
12) What's your favorite prank?
Make it clear that these are not to be attempted while at work, unless you want your precious office electronics covered in shaving cream.
Some people are brilliant at what they do, but prefer limited interaction. Here are some questions to enroll everyone in the conversation, without creating discomfort.
13) Was there a recent team discussion or meeting where you did not get to share your thoughts? Share them here now...
Introverts tend to need more time to think through an idea and they often get interrupted or out-shouted by extroverts on the team. Asking this question in written form, with time to answer, allows managers to shine a light on their hidden genius.
14) Who do you want to get to know better in the company? Tag them here for a coffee or virtual coffee date.
No, you can't just run to your desk and put your headphones on. Let's push your edges a bit so that we can create some cross-team camaraderie.
Our eBook has a bank of fourteen questions from thought leaders like Simon Sinek, Ryan Holiday, Anese Cavanaugh, Shawn Murphy and others. They share their favorite questions to ask their teams along with an explanation of why they ask them.
Wizard of Moz, Rand Fishkin, asks his team this question:
15) What's holding you back from accomplishing your tasks?
I want to find what's stopping progress and do everything in my power to eliminate those roadblocks.
A well-crafted question can inspire and illuminate, and often brings co-workers closer together. Poorly worded questions can create confusion and disconnection.
Asking thought-provoking questions takes skill, and only the right questions will inspire creativity and yield the quality employee feedback and positive results that managers desire. Done well, this practice inspires others to solve problems, and to think spontaneously and creatively.