Five questions all managers should ask

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Careers and HR specialist James Sweetnam talks about the key questions that really effective managers can answer positively.

Effective managers don’t just manage people; they develop their staff by supporting and challenging team members to utilise their talents, enhance their skills and think for themselves.

In addition great managers teach employees how to achieve greater levels of satisfaction at work; they show their staff how to grow not just in their roles but as people. And of course great managers lead by example.

In my interactions with managers of varying degrees of competency, I’ve found that the really effective managers can answer these questions positively;

• 1. Do I care enough about my staff to invest my time in their development?

• 2. Do I have the skills and attitude to develop my team?

• 3. Am I aware of my own strengths and weaknesses as a manager, and am I honest enough to seek assistance and input when I require it?

• 4. Do I have regular one-to-one meetings with my staff above and beyond the required performance appraisals or task specific meetings?

• 5. What evidence am I using to support my answers to the above four questions?

Great managers incorporate coaching into their style of management either consciously or unconsciously. The essence of being a coach is to help someone reach beyond his or her own perceived limitations and to realise his or her potential.

Unlike other aspects of managing, when you coach someone, you are focused on the individual person, not just on the tasks you want them to complete. Your approach is proactive and focused on long-term sustainable development, not a short-term, reactive quick fix.

Many managers fail to realise that just as customers voluntarily decide to do business with you, staff volunteer their dedication, motivation and enthusiasm. Employees are required to spend a specific number of hours a day at work, but they volunteer ‘who they are' at work.

With either a short-term or egocentric focus, many managers concentrate on daily tasks rather than on creating an environment in which staff can flourish. As a manager using a coaching style you can encourage staff to find their own solutions to problems. For example, if someone hasn’t performed a task very well, he will learn where he went wrong, and how to work better next time, if you coach him through the problem rather than simply telling him where he went wrong.

Instead of saying ‘you should have done this’ you might ask him a few ‘what’ and ‘how’ questions e.g. ‘what caused this’ or ‘how would you approach it next time?’ This approach will embed the employee’s learning.

All feedback opportunities are coaching and learning opportunities. Unfortunately many myopic managers use aggressiveness, stubbornness and the excuse of being too busy, to take action that will ultimately help them become more effective in their roles. Too often mangers try to disguise the rut they are in, or fight to conceal their insecurities, rather than having the courage to make changes.

Research has shown that coaching as a style of leadership is most effective in developing the trust, respect and capability of staff which in turn leads to higher morale, greater productivity and better results. Some managers are instinctive coaches; others have consciously worked on developing their skills. Like any skill, managers can learn to become better coaches, but this is only possible when the manager wants to develop their coaching skills and a good place to start is by answering the above five questions.

James Sweetman is a Business and Personal Coach, specialising in assisting individuals and firms to be more effective at what they do. He works both on a one-2-one basis with individual clients as well as delivering tailored training workshops on a range of topics including Confidence Building and Presentation Skills.

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