4 Questions Smart Leaders Ask to Build Employee Relationships

4 Questions Smart Leaders Ask to Build Employee Relationships image DATE: January 7, 2020

If you lead others and want to take your success (and that of your organization) to the next level, knowing how to build employee relationships is critical. I’m talking about engaged, honest, productive employee relationships. But often, leaders are too afraid to ask an employee’s opinion of the leader’s performance. If you really want to be successful, you really want to build employee relationships that are strong — and you’re really brave — ask your people these four questions.

4 Questions Smart Leaders Ask to Build Employee Relationships

Before I get to the questions, let me offer a word of caution. If you really want to build employee relationships that support individual or organizational success — you must be emotionally prepared for the responses you may get. Period.

If you, as a leader, ask any of these questions then counter with a defensive, angry rebuttal, you’ve shut down any hope to build employee relationships that are honest, trusted or productive.

With that in mind, here are the four questions smart — brave — leaders ask their people.

1. How am I doing?

Your first purpose with this question is to initiate a productive conversation. And you want to discover how satisfied, how confident your people are in your leadership. But the purpose is not to get your employees to tell you how wonderful you are. Asking your followers for feedback may initially seem strange to them. They may be thinking, “Is he serious? This must be a trick question.” or “Can I trust her if I answer honestly?”

But to build employee relationships that are beyond transactional, leaders must be willing to open the door with honest, direct dialogue. Your people need to know you are serious about hearing their views. And they need to be reassured  you have their best interests and the best interests of the organization in mind. Your people need to know you have their back — here’s what that looks like.

2. What have I screwed up lately?

You want your people to be encouraged to tell you not only the good news, but most especially the bad news. Often our actions and engagements with employees are well-meant, but may be perceived in a completely different way. So leaders can’t assume “no news is good news.”

Want more engaged employee relationships and better business results but don’t know where to start? Call me now.

When leaders are willing to accept negative feedback and take action to correct their performance, employees notice! Not only does this open the lines of communication with employees, it also models behavior leaders want in their followers. When you’re trying to build employee relationships, that’s a win-win!

3. What are other leaders doing that impress you?

This question helps you tap into your followers’ experience with other leaders. The most successful leaders understand the unique motivations of their people. And this question helps you understand specifically what each follower likes in their leader — what they respect, what they favorably respond to.

4.  What can I do to help you right now?

Want to build engaged, committed employee relationships? Ask this question, then act on the response, and you clearly show your level of commitment to your people. That commitment from their leader is something highly valued by employees!

One final word of caution. Talk is cheap when leaders are attempting to build trusted, engaged relationships with employees. Being brave enough to merely ask these questions will not be enough. When employees know you know the answers to these questions — they will expect you to take action. 


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About The Author:

Phillip Van Hooser, CSP, CPAE is committed to helping organizations transform their business outcomes by building engaged employee relationships. He is an award-winning keynote speaker and author on engaged leadership and communication. His most recent book is “Earning The Right To Be Heard," a primer for creating greater influence and opportunities. Connect with Phil on LinkedIn.

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