The one question you need to ask every direct report

I’m always so grateful for what the people on my team teach me, and how much we can learn as leaders simply by listening. This came to life for me again a few days ago on two specific occasions. First, one of my team members was working on developing her potential to become a manager and she shared this blog from Fast Company on getting to know your team:

I think all of the questions here are valuable, but one stood out in particular: What experiences make you happiest at work? While this may feel “soft,” what it actually tells you about an employee is where their strengths most intersect with their passion: a wonderful recipe for motivation and success.

direct-hire-happiest-at-workJust a couple of days later I had a chance to test this question and found it to be of great benefit. This team member told me that what energizes her the most are three things: learning, teaching, and helping others solve a problem. And then a light bulb went on for me. This also answered question number 4 the Fast Company blog’s list: How should we use our 1:1s?

Immediately, it was clear that three ongoing agenda topics would help me stay up to date on the team member’s top priorities, where she was being successful, and how I could express appreciation for the things most meaningful to her. Our topics became:

  1. What’s one thing you’ve learned this week?
  2. What’s one thing you want to teach someone next week?
  3. What’s the most pressing challenge you can help someone on the team tackle?

All of sudden we had an agenda that aligned directly with what makes this team member most come alive at work, and is directly applicable to the things we should be covering anyway. We’re early on in applying this process to her employee experience, but so far it is working great. My only regret is not having discovered this simple formula much sooner.

–David Shanklin is CultureIQ’s Managing Director of Culture Solutions

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