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Top 5 Powerful Questions for Managers

Connection is key in developing strong relationships as a manager. The feeling of isolation as a manager is a real situation. Especially if you are recently promoted to manage people OR are newly hired to manage an already established team. It can be difficult to define your relationship with each team member if you are not equipped to build that connection. We are going to review the top 5 powerful questions I like to use as a manager.

First off, congratulations for making the decision to build a stronger relationship with each of your direct reports. This is the first step to transforming your team into a high achieving group. Words you choose, the energy your bring, the actions you commit to are power. Be cautious with this gift. Treat every interaction with respect, authenticity, and most importantly, if you don't know, get back to the employee (but make sure you follow up).

"Corporate culture matters. How management chooses to treat its people impacts everything for better or for worse." – Simon Sinek

So, how did I choose these top 5 powerful questions? Trial, error, a lot of reading (*It's The Manager - Clifton & Harter), and practice. Ultimately, the final deciding factor to use these cornerstone powerful questions was, what would I want my manager to ask me?


Before dive in, let's be mindful of some housekeeping items.

  1. Before starting the conversation, prepare the employee for the conversation. In a private setting, prepare the employee that you have a couple questions to ask, in order to build a better relationship or communication stream. This way the employee is not blindsided and can perceive this as an opportunity to share things with you. Maybe things that have been on their mind for awhile!

  2. Set a timeframe, maybe 10-15 minutes to discuss one or two of the questions below.

  3. Be sure you are actively listening and respond with summarizing what the employee has told you, that way you can better understand what answer is and reaffirms that you were indeed listening.

  4. After you have the foundation, you can get started. Notice how these questions below focus on the positive.

Top 5 Power Questions for Managers

  • What is going really well for you, right now?

This question invites your employee to share. The natural human response is to focus on the negative but this approach gives the employee time to share with their manager things that are going really well for them. Who doesn't want to talk about that?

  • How do you measure success? What does it look like to you?

I love this question. It gives the manager a perfect preview into what make an employee 'tick'. Once you know how your team measures success you can incorporate this knowledge into incentives to build action plans and reach goals. Asking the employee what success looks like to them will give you the same vision of what to look for when an employee reaches success.

  • What knowledge and skills do you need to get to the next stage of your career?*

This question is completely actionable. It gives you the tools you need to incentive and engage your employee. Meaning, if you know where your employee wants to go, you can help them. And hopefully by helping them hit these knowledge and skills benchmarks you can keep them within your organization instead of losing them to another institution. It is better that a good employee move to another department and stay with your company than leave the company altogether.

  • How do you prefer to received feedback (constructive or praise)?

I feel this question should be asked on an employee's first day. AND this question should be asked by a new manager to a new team, of each team member. Most employees know exactly how they like to receive feedback and more importantly, how they do not like to receive feedback. For instance, for a job well done, some employees may want a public display of praise - while others may like a private show of appreciation.


Delivering constructive feedback can be tricky. You want to get the point across without discouraging the employee to come to you for help or with more questions. So ask the question, how do you prefer to receive constructive feedback? You team member will know exactly what that looks like. And they will appreciate the question.

  • What are you currently working on? How is it going? What do you need from me to be successful?

This is a great ongoing tool for weekly check-ins. This is a true support model. And this model can be used to create a strong foundation of support for both parties. I've used this approach many times and helped implement this approach with many managers and the feedback is strong. If you are not taking part in this today, please start!


Asking questions that truly lead to employee discovery is key to a power coaching conversation. When crafting your own questions, keep them open ended. Such as "what", "how", and "when" are going to set you up for success. Also that active listening, and echoing back what the employee has said is the key to success. Lastly, be sure to thank the employee for sharing with you. This helps close the circle of trust. It shows that you value the employee's time and they are important.


If you want to reach out to speak to me about implementing powerful questions, click the button below.






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