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Team Productivity

5 Questions to Ask Your Team Members Every Month

Daniel Threlfall
February 18, 2014
5 questions to ask your employees

No one likes the proverbial my-way-or-the-highway boss, the control freak, or the micromanager. So how do you avoid being a bad leader to your team?

It’s all about asking the right questions.

These aren’t stultified performance review questions—but real questions that can dramatically improve an employee’s morale, output, and quality of work.

Asking the right questions is perhaps the only way to be a truly effective manager. Here are 5 questions to ask your team during monthly check-ins or even weekly 1:1s.

questions to ask your employees to improve morale

1. What’s your biggest accomplishment this month?

Everyone likes talking about their wins, so why not start with that? Here are a few ways you might phrase this question:

Why the question is effective

2. What’s your biggest challenge right now?

Challenges are good things because they make us better. While this question may not have the same psychological uptick as the first one, it’s important to ask nonetheless.

Why the question is effective

You get to improve processes, eliminate barriers, and enhance productivity. When you know about a problem, you can fix it. Thankfully, most challenges have a solution.

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3. What should we do differently?

Every team member has a different perspective on the company. Your job as a manager is to synthesize all this information and improve the company.

Everyone can add value—and not just the value that comes from performing a strictly defined job title. Your team can provide value by sharing their own managerial insights.

One question my CEO asks me is, What processes can we improve? Every week. Same question. I don’t always have any improvements to suggest, but at least the opportunity is there.

Why the question is effective

4. What resources would be helpful to you right now?

Using the word resources leaves the door open to a wide variety of things—whether it’s a virtual assistant, a larger desk, a better computer, more meetings, fewer hours, or even a vacation. Just be sure there’s a mutual understanding that you can’t deliver anything or everything they want.

Why the question is effective

5. Is there anything I can help you with?

Finally, provide a connection that lets your employee know you’re a human. This is the broadest question of all and can transcend the office, the work, and the business.

Feel free to spin the question in a more specific way based on things you know are going on in your team member’s life:

Why the question is effective

How to ask your team members questions in the right way

Just as important as asking the right questions is asking them in the right way. Otherwise, these questions will be as useless as sound waves disturbing the ether.

Here are 3 tips for asking the right questions in the right way.

  1. Ask sincerely. Ask these questions with authenticity. You really want to know the answers. You’re not reading a form—you’re engaging with a person.
  2. Ask humbly. You ask questions to get answers. In other words, you ask to learn. Be prepared to hear answers you may not like. This isn’t a time to protest answers with a no-can-do attitude. It’s a time to listen—openly and honestly. Be patient, and hear your team member out.
  3. Ask frequently. I’m suggesting that you ask these questions monthly. Totally transparent answers may not be forthcoming the first time you try. But as your team members are reminded of these questions, the gears begin to turn, and the thoughts begin to flow. Make these questions a regular part of your conversation.

Using questions to build employee trust

Being an effective manager is about understanding. You won’t understand unless you ask the right questions and listen to learn.

Questions are one of the manager’s most powerful tools. Knowing how to wield them with precision is your key to becoming a better leader.

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