“How could we improve things around here?”  Workers always know the best way to get the job done because they’re the ones doing it – sometimes for years!  Ask them their opinion.  Donald Petersen, former president and CEO of Ford Motor Company once reported that when he started visiting Ford plants and meeting with employees, “one man said he’d been with Ford for twenty-five years and hated every minute of it — until he was asked for his opinion.  He said that question transformed his job.”  Other variations of this question include:  “How do you think we should handle this problem?” “Would you like to be a part of this decision when it’s made?”

“What one thing can I do better for you?”  A manager at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, NV, asks her staff this question once a month.  After listening and acknowledging her employees’ concerns and ideas, she tells them one thing they can do better for her that month.  This simple question helps to build communication and rapport between her and her staff.  Other variations on this question:  “How can I better support you?” “Is there any additional information you need to do your job?” or “Do you have any questions I can help you with?”

“What would a good job look like?” Even under the best of circumstances, communication is fickle.  Assumptions are made, information is misunderstood, and things change.  This is one great question I’ve found for clarifying expectations and to more clearly focus on the desired goal and not the activities of one’s job.  By getting people to visualize what success would look like (in their job, in the team, for the organization) the gaps between the current state of affairs and the desired state become clearer and thus easier to act upon.

“What skills would you like to learn in your current position?”  Great add-on questions include: “What opportunities would you like to be exposed to while in this organization?” and “Where do you want to be five years from now in your career?”

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