5 Questions to Influence Your Employees’ Success

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All managers want their employees to be successful, and all employees want to be successful.  Yet, often success isn’t achieved due to various obstacles and communication gaps.  Employees, especially new ones, struggle with how to approach their boss when certain needs aren't being met that are pre-requisites for success.  On the flipside, manager's struggle with an effective line of questioning and open-ended dialogue starters that will gauge if an employee is on the right path, truly understands their priorities, has the tools they need to be successful, and foresees and knows how to overcome potential challenges and roadblocks.


As a manager, one on one meetings are essential for building a strong, professional relationship, establishing and nurturing trust, true employee engagement and commitment, and optimal productivity!  Here are some recommended questions to include as part of those meetings to open the door of understanding employee success pre-requisites, needs, questions, etc. and to help ensure you are giving them what they need to be successful!

1. Do you understand your priorities, expectations and the timelines for those?  In your mind, what do your priorities look like? 

  • Many employees and contractors don’t understand key macro goals/priorities and how their daily work contributes to the goals of the group or organization.  Clearly communicating this will not only provide them the direction they need to do a better job, but increase buy-in, commitment and loyalty to the organization!  As a manager, simply outlining expectations and timelines is incredibly powerful.  Clearly communicate “here are the goals/priorities over the next one week, two weeks, one month, three months, etc.” and then determine if they have questions, believe those priorities and timelines are reasonable, and/or have any other thoughts. 

2. What else do you need to be successful? 

  • These “needs” can encompass several different aspects, such as knowledge (training), equipment, guidance, introduction/relationship with certain stakeholders/clients, and other resources.  One of the biggest areas where we’ve seen contractors and employees “silently struggle” is that they don’t have the knowledge with a specific skill, technology or version, but due to pride, fear of asking, and potential backlash of seeming incompetent or simply not knowing who to ask internally, they don’t seek out the training they need.  Another major area employees struggle with is responsiveness or buy-in from others internally or externally they work with, where their job/productivity relies on a solid relationship with them.  Part of being a manager is ensuring those connections are being made and professional stakeholder relationships are being developed to build and foster trust and respect.

3. What challenges do you anticipate and what is your plan for overcoming? 

  • When you start a new role, it can be extremely daunting, especially if you know you are light in a current area, skill or technology.  It’s wise to sit down with your newest employees to get their view on the challenges/obstacles they see in the way of them being successful.  Maybe it’s something that isn’t so much a challenge, rather it’s their lack of understanding or experience with the matter.  Or maybe it is something that truly will be a challenge, but they have ideas on how to get past it.  Either way, you’re taking an active role in their overall success and showing you care from day one.  Don’t forget your tenured employees here either!  A new project often brings a whole new set of obstacles and challenges and it’s important to get their take on the situation and if there’s anything you can do to assist.

4. Is this position aligning with your initial expectations? 

  • This is an important question because many people are dissatisfied with a role because it differs from what they assumed / were communicated during an interview.  It’s a major reason good people quickly leave an organization.  Therefore, it’s important to assess and then address it as quickly as possible.  Be direct and ask “How is what you’re doing aligning with what you were expecting?”  If it’s not aligning with their initial expectations, what can be done to rectify it?  Is there an opportunity for them to be a part of another project, take on a role within an existing project, get a mentor, shadow a coworker, etc. that would help contribute to this being the job they signed on for?  It may not be possible right away, but at least you and your employee have addressed their concerns and hopefully come up with a game plan to more closely align the role with their initial and preferred expectations.

5. How do you work best?  What is your preferred management style?  What could I be doing differently to best support you? 

  • As former and previous managers, these are questions that really aided us in tweaking our approach to motivate and manage our employees.  However you want to frame it, ensure you’re determining “What else do you need from me?  What else could I be doing to support you?  How do you like the cadence with your Manager to be structured?”  A lot of employees will say they don’t appreciate being micro managed, which is understandable, but there are certain situations (i.e. when an employee is new to a task or new to the organization) that will demand more hands-on time from you.  Be up front about your level of involvement during times like this and how it might differ, and communicate how things will change once they’re up to speed with their new job/project, past the critical phases, etc. and empower them to come to you real-time if they have questions, concerns, and/or additional needs!  There is no one-size-fits-all management style, and as a manager, it’s imperative that you recognize that and “customize” your approach/style as needed to fit the “requirements” of that particular employee!
Next Steps

As a Manager, your success is a culmination of the results/successes of your team members!  It’s essential to provide each team member attention, guidance, positive feedback and suggestions, and quality one-on-one meetings that ask a strategic open-ended line of questioning that will open the door for them to share their questions, needs and other success requirements/pre-requisites.  It also communicates to them that you care about their career, success and growth, which will help retain your top employees and further drive their commitment and productivity! 

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About the author
MSSQLTips author Cate Murray Cate Murray is responsible for managing the nationally-based talent acquisition strategies of the Apex Systems PMO and Business Analysis Practice and holds her PMP certification from PMI.

This author pledges the content of this article is based on professional experience and not AI generated.

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