Mindreading 1.2: Ten More Questions To Take Your Team From 0 To 60

By David Hassell

How do you discover what is going on in the minds of your employees? Ever wish that you had the power of mind-reading, aka mental telepathy?

Telepathy is an ancient Greek term, tele meaning distant and pathos meaning feeling, perception, passion, affliction or experience. To be telepathic you need to see beneath the surface. Your employees’ thoughts, perceptions, ideas, challenges and anxieties all lurk behind the blank stare or false smile that you might be met with during one-on-one’s.

Zero scientific evidence exists to support the validity of mindreading, so don’t risk freaking out your team by squinting at them while holding two fingers to your temple. Instead use a proven method for receiving honest, valuable employee feedback — ask the right feedback questions.

1) What are your top 3 priorities for next week?

So much insight can be derived from this simple question. You are not merely checking in on productivity, you are asking if they know what their priorities are. When the answer is spot-on, that is a good sign that management is effectively communicating team or organizational goals. An unexpected response provides the opportunity to realign the employee and could clue you into a problem about which you were unaware… “Goal #1: Get the website back up.” Wait, what!?

2) What keeps you up at night?

15Five Question from Proto Partners

Studies have proven that sleep is a fundamental requirement for cognitive processing and productivity. And according to Simon Sinek, your primary job as a leader is to provide your employees with the feeling of security that they need to do their best work. So if employees are constantly worried that they will lose their jobs, or afraid of confrontations with management — if they are literally staying up at night, you want to know about it.

3) How are you impacting the people around you?

Why is it that the people with the least self-awareness are usually the most difficult to be around? People are very “me”-focused, and can be completely unaware that they are having a negative impact on others. This question invites people to be aware of their co-workers’ reactions and perceptions and ponder how they’re being experienced by others. The self-inquiry that will be instigated here can be a valuable agent to improve people’s behaviors.

Mindreading 1.2

4) Do you feel recognized and valued by your team? Why?

15Five Question from Staff One

Sometimes all we need to perform at our best is a regular pat on the back. Without that simple gesture, employees can feel like their efforts are meaningless — especially in larger organizations. This question lets an employee share their triumphs, and provides you with a  sense of team morale and dynamics. In the worst case, you can step in and offer your own recognition to an under-valued employee who answers this question with a negative response.

5) What personal goal are you working on and how can we support you? 

“What!? You care about my personal goals? I love this company!”

Imagine if everyone on your team reacted that way. Your employee turnover would be next to non-existent. People crave fulfillment and self-actualization. When you offer employees support for extraneous projects, they will also fulfill their employment duties with greater zeal. This one works particularly well for flexible businesses that care more about results than structure.

6) Who do you look up to at this company or elsewhere?

Leadership comes in all shapes and sizes, regardless of title. Your executive VP holds a role of great responsibility, but may not garner the respect that comes from being a great leader. But your new entry level customer service rep might take the time every day to see if co-workers need anything.

Answers to this question will show you who your future company leaders are. Let employees know that they are admired by others and applaud them for showing up in this way.

7) How are your meetings going? How can we make them more productive?

This question gets people thinking about how they can be more efficient with time, especially since meetings can be a huge waste of time and money. Just think about the aggregate cost of one hour for your entire staff or executive team.

Precious time is often wasted bringing people up to speed, when that information could have been shared in various other ways before the meeting. Streamlining your meetings means limiting the number of people who need to attend.  They can spend that time working on priorities and you get the most out of your payroll budget.

8) What do you think we can do better as a company?

I love this question. It’s open-ended enough that it invites unexpected responses about everything: better coffee, software choices, policies, product enhancements, money-saving ideas… You don’t necessarily have to act on the advice but always respond with an acknowledgement to encourage more great ideas in the future.

9) What book would you like to read (that you don’t already own) to further your professional development and satisfaction?

One of 15Five’s core values is to always be learning and growing. When an employee gets stuck or asks a question, I will usually suggest a paradigm-shifting book that delves deeply  into that particular area. Books also make great gifts to celebrate employee birthdays or a job well-done.

10) On a 1-10 scale, how have your personal energy levels been? If you wanted to move up a number, what would it take?

All work is not created equal. Employees who feel healthy and energetic get more done in less time. They are also happier and more pleasant to be around. This question grows awareness around low energy and because you ask for a suggestion to improve, it actually places people on the path towards making that change. Employees often respond with ‘more exercise’, ‘less coffee’, or ‘better diet’, and you can step in to support them. Follow up after a week or so and ask how it’s going.

While you are busy honing your mind-reading skills in vain, what you don’t know is hurting you and your company. Asking questions allows you to see where employees are struggling and where they are misaligned with company goals. Questions allow you to prevent problems, keep morale high, and provide the support that keeps everyone on the team productive and engaged.

This post originally appeared on Firmology, as part two of David Hassell‘s Mindreading Series. David is Founder and CEO of 15Five, a SaaS company with a powerful and simple solution that gathers critical insights from employees in minutes each week, enabling informed management to get the visibility they need to boost engagement and drive alignment across their entire team.

What unique questions do you ask your team every week? Leave us a comment below.

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