The 12 Best Questions for Team Members

In their book First, Break All the Rules: What the World's Greatest Managers Do Differently Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman present the twelve best questions you can ask your team members to determine how they feel about their jobs.

These questions are the result of one of the largest research efforts ever performed on the topic of people management.

In order to get a feel of your team’s motivation, you would do well to use these questions as the basis for an in-depth conversation. You might want to do this in a formal way, with an objective interviewer and a linear scale of ratings, so that you can carry out some statistical analysis after the interviews. Or you can just do this informally, by pasting the list onto the coffee machine. And whenever you “coincidentally” meet someone while getting a cup of coffee, you make sure to point at one of the questions on the list and have a little chat about it.

These are the 12 topics, and how you could tackle them:

1. Do you know what is expected of you at work?
Do you know what are wrong ways and right ways of doing your work? Or do you think nobody would notice the difference if you’d switched to coding on your office walls with a crayon marker?

2. Do you have the materials and equipment you need to do your work right?
Are tools and processes supplied and customized for you? Or do you feel that buying and carrying your own stone tablets for writing source code would be an improvement over your current situation?

3. Do you get the opportunity to do what you do best every day?
Are your talents being used to their fullest potential? Or will your mother and her Chihuahua have just about the same chance at success when they’d attempt to take over the work that you do?

4. Did someone recently give you recognition or praise for doing good work?
Is anyone noticing you’re making a difference, in a positive way? Or are they more eager to point at that minor error that almost completely blew up the company, but actually didn’t?

5. Do your colleagues seem to care about you as a person?
Are they interested in your hobbies, your spouse, your friends and family? Or are you not comfortable enough to reveal that you have this fascination for bonsai trees, and are planning to marry one?

6. Are you encouraged to work on your (self-)development?
Has someone discussed with you how you can further improve as a person? Or do you think they won’t even care if you changed into Captain Code, saving the world from bugs and bad formatting?

7. Do people make your opinion count?
Are your colleagues listening to you? Or might you just as well talk to the receptionist’s hair dresser, for all the good it would bring you?

8. Do you feel that your job is important?
Do you understand how your work is a significant part of the value your organization tries to create? Or do you feel that your holidays have about the same amount of impact on the success of your organization?

9. Are your colleagues committed to doing quality work?
Do you feel that doing the best work possible is important to your co-workers? Or do they care more about their working times, their dogs, their collections of beer bottles, and the value of their stock?

10. Do you (or would you like to) consider some colleagues as friends?
Do you enjoy meals, movies, games, or even holidays with some of your colleagues? Or do you intentionally live at the other side of the country, staying as far away from them as possible?

11. Does someone care about the progress of your work?
Is someone interested in what you do at work, and how your work is coming along? Or do they prefer to talk about the weather, or their own heroic stories of saving the company?

12. Are you given the opportunity (time/resources) to learn and grow?
Do you have the means and ability to improve the way you do your work? Or are you expected to learn and grow on your own time, while walking the dog, or taking a shower?

These were the 12 best topics for in-depth discussions with your team about their work. Feel free to change the wording of the questions, and experiment with the optimal setup for your interviews (which may vary per person).

Note: the phrasing of the questions is currently in a "closed format" (with yes/no answers), which obviously enabled the research agency to do statistical analysis on the results. However, you might want to rephrase them to a more "open format", which might help you achieving more in-depth discussions with your team members.

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