10 Questions Every Manager Should Ask Every Employee

by Burl Stamp

Inspiration for my columns on best practices to improve employee engagement and customer experience come from many places. Often, I’m the beneficiary of great insights from the work we’re doing with leading organizations across the country. But recently, I was given one of the best lists of questions I’ve ever seen for guiding a truly meaningful conversation between supervisor and employee right in my own hometown … from my wife.

My wife Luanne joined the Guest Relations department at Barnes-Jewish Hospital after her life-changing spine surgery there early last year. She expected the 7-hour procedure to make a major difference in her physical condition. What she didn’t expect was the impact that just being at the Medical Center and seeing the emotional stress that patients and families are experiencing would have. It inspired her to apply for the job in Guest Relations, where she has the privilege of supporting families who are struggling with devastating diagnoses, unthinkable injuries and unbearable pain.

While she usually doesn’t share many details from work, she recently handed me piece of paper with a list of questions. “Look at this,” she said. “I think you’ll be interested given the work that you do.”

I was indeed very interested and impressed by what I read.

The list was given to her and every other employee in the department by her director, Matt Lauer (no, not that Matt Lauer), who heads the Guest Relations department at Barnes-Jewish. The list came with the explanation that he wanted to sit down for an hour with every employee over the coming weeks to see how they were doing. His list of questions provided more details on what he wanted to talk about:

  1. What is and is not going well in your current role?
  2. What are your successes and roadblocks?
  3. What are you enjoying most about working in Guest Relations?
  4. What things are you not enjoying as much right now? And how could we change that?
  5. What do you perceive as your 3- to 5-year plan? How can I help you achieve your goals? What jobs interest you at BJC?
  6. What additional tools or training would you like to have to be successful?
  7. Is there anyone you think needs special recognition and why?
  8. What do you need more or less of from me?
  9. What’s something you think I should know that I may not … or that was not asked above?
  10. Is there a question I should have asked that I did not?

In Stamp&Chase’s MyTEAM™ model and companion app for enhancing employee engagement, we recommend “Development Dialogues” with staff between annual performance appraisals to really understand where employees are and how we can help them be successful. Matt’s list of questions is one of the best examples I’ve ever come across to make conversations like this with employees most productive. Every leader who has responsibility for development of the individuals on his/her team should follow his example.