5 questions every manager should ask

“My supervisor cares about me as a person.”

While a measly 4% of disengaged employees will favorably endorse this question, a whopping 83% of highly engaged employees will do so. The message is clear: get out there and care for your people!

But before you start scribbling valentines and perfecting your bear hug, we should ask – what are the most appropriate and effective ways a busy professional shows care and concern for her employees? No matter what shape your relationship takes, the best way to show people that you care is to listen to them. These five questions should be in every manager’s repertoire:

1) How are things? How was that 5k last weekend? How’s little Johnny recovering from his sickness? Did you and your husband like that new restaurant you tried? People spend an awful lot of time at work, but a huge part of what makes them thrum with vitality happens away from the office. Making friendly inquiries into their interests and relationships outside the office shows you appreciate that they are complex, interesting beings who exist outside the fishbowl.

2) Got a minute? Hey, I have about 30 min to grab lunch if you do. Want to catch up? Informal check-ins with your people help you keep a pulse on what’s going well and what isn’t. It gives you an opportunity to provide coaching and feedback, and it gives your employees a safe place to blow off steam and get advice. Plus, you get a chance to catch issues before they become problems. As importantly, when you make time for people in your undoubtedly busy schedule, they feel like a priority.

3) Did I say thank you? Thanks for the way you handled Unruly Client. That took some real skill. I really appreciate how you stepped up to help on Chris Colleague’s project – I know you had a lot of other things going on and it wasn’t easy to juggle it all. Showing gratitude and appreciation makes others feel valued. But this kind of praise serves other purposes than generating warm fuzzies. It also reinforces positive behavior and gradually helps build a climate in which people give thanks to one another on a regular basis, which builds goodwill and trust within your team.

4) How do you think it went? Everybody needs feedback in order to improve. And believe it or not, everyone wants feedback. It’s just that unless feedback is handled well, it can be hard to take. One of the most caring ways to coach someone through an experience is to first ask them how they perceived it. Give them the first cut at a post-mortem and they will be more likely to learn from the experience, feel less threatened when you give your own feedback, and will appreciate that you cared about their perspective.

5) What’s next? Showing that you care about someone as a person includes caring about what happens to them after they leave your nest. Keeping in tune with employees’ long-range career goals  helps them stay engaged because it links their work not just with the organization’s bigger picture, but also with their own bigger picture. It also lets you better align their assignments with their strengths and interests, tailor development activities with future needs, and aids in succession planning.

It’s probably obvious to state that these questions are just a start. The caring manager doesn’t “hit and run” but listens with genuine interest and acts on what they learn. The goal isn’t to make employees think you care – it’s to be caring.


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