Questions Managers Should Ask their Teammates

I want to be a great manager because I have experienced the harmful effects of poor management throughout my career.

I’ve had the manager who did not believe in me, the manager who belittled me, the manager who gaslighted me, the manager who micromanaged me, the manager who offered no means for me to grow, and the manager who had to be the smartest in the room.

When I decided to transition my career from a senior scientist role into technical management, I signed up for career coaching in part because I wanted to show up in the best way for my team like the few amazing managers and mentors I have been grateful to work with. Since beginning coaching about 5 months ago, I have realized how important it is for a manager to have coaching skills. Currently, I’m reading Multipliers by Liz Wiseman in order to learn more about the art of coaching, which is incredibly enlightening and motivating!

From what I have learned so far about coaching, I see the importance of asking questions, lots of questions. It seems logical to me that when we know about our teammates, we can better help them grow in the direction in which they want to grow. After all, how can we know what someone wants, how they learn, what they like and dislike, and their personal and professional goals if we don’t ask and pay attention?

My first 1:1 meeting as a manager went so well. It honestly exceeded my wildest expectations. My teammate is gradually returning from maternity leave back to work, so it was the perfect time for us to get to know one another better and ensure her transition back to work will be successful. We held the meeting in our company conference room with her baby in her arms. Having her baby present added to the meeting since it helped me visualize her priorities and get to know her and her goals better.

Once we finished the meeting, I realized how easy it was to ask someone questions to get to know them, and then I felt angry wondering why my previous managers never made this effort to get to know me.

While I feel a measure of pressure for making sure I don’t become the diminishing manager, I’m funneling this energy toward my own learning and growth to be the “multiplier” type of manager Wiseman discusses in her book.

Below I’ve listed the questions I used to guide this conversation with my teammate to better understand her and align her work with her personal and professional goals. I ended up not asking every single question on this list during our conversation since some were not relevant or felt redundant.

Note that these questions were great for the situation I was in:

  • I joined the company about 3 months prior and was then transitioning into a management position.
  • My teammates have been working at the company longer than me.
  • This team member I had met when I first joined. She took maternity leave for a couple months and was now returning to work.

If you use these, I would love to hear how they worked for you!

1. Professional development goals and plan

  • How do you like to learn?
  • What are some skills you would like to develop?
  • What are some experiences you would like to gain?
  • What do you enjoy most and least about your job?
  • What projects have you enjoyed working on recently, and why?
  • Would you benefit from more coaching?

2. Levels of engagement

  • What in particular do you enjoy about working here?
  • What do you least prefer doing and why?
  • What keeps you engaged and inspired at work?
  • Do you have any concerns when it comes to your role or career opportunities?

3. Goal Setting:

  • Review several short-term goals
  • Ask if they have questions about their goals
  • Have them prepare long-term goals (annual at the least) for your next meeting to continue this discussion.

Bonus: Questions for a follow-up meeting

4. Short & long-term performance goals

  • How are you progressing on your goals? Do you need any help?
  • Are you facing any bottlenecks? What might help remove them?
  • How have you determined your longer term goals?
  • Which part of your job do you feel is the most relevant to your long-term goals?

More Resources from The STEM Thrive Guides

If you’d like to learn more about how to document harassment, I’ve made it easy for you! Check out The STEM Thrive Guides mini-course How to Document Harassment. This includes a special checklist designed so that even when you face overwhelming emotions you can easily document an incident of harassment including all the details necessary in case you wish to pursue legal action.

Also, I want to invite you to follow The STEM Thrive Guides on Instagram (@stemthriveguides) or Twitter (@stemthriveguide), and subscribe to the The Resilient in STEM podcast!

Best wishes on your journey! Remember, The STEM Thrive Guides is here for any support you need as you navigate difficult situations and inappropriate behavior at work or school. For more information about The STEM Thrive Guides, you can visit

If you want to continue this discussion, join the Resilient in STEM Facebook community, which is a private community there to support you on your career journey! Everyone is welcome!

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