When you’re managing a new team, there’s a lot of uncertainty. What do they think of you? Will everyone get along? How was their last manager? Are they a talented team?
Starting anything new is always hard, and when you involve multiple other people, personalities, and habits, it ups the difficulty level significantly.
As a manager, you need a strong relationship with your team, which starts with what you do on day 1. There are many different ways to make sure you start on a right foot, and these questions can help you start the best way possible.
1) “What are your favorite things to work on? What do you feel are your strengths?”
Especially on a large team, you’ll be surprised how often what one person hates doing, another person will love.
By getting to know the work that excites each of your team members most, you can make it much more likely people get to work on things they enjoy at least part of the time. You can also then avoid the dreaded situation where you assign work to one person who hates it and another person wishes they could have that task.
More importantly, you’re tapping into research that shows clearly that the teams that perform the best lean on the strengths of their teams
The sooner you find out your team’s strengths and work they enjoy, the sooner you can start maximizing their potential and that of your entire team.
When you’re starting out managing a new team, the easiest way to discover those strengths and work interests is to make time to ask. When you do, take note so you remember later, and ask some follow up questions to deeply understand what they enjoy.
2) “What have your past managers done that you’d like me to also do, or not do?”
This question will instantly give you credibility with your team and shows you care. Whether their last manager was saint or devil, they’ll provide valuable insight for you.
If the last manager was great, they’ll give you insight into what they appreciated most, short-cutting finding some of the most effective ways to lead and motivate them. Meanwhile, if the last manager was poor, you reset their expectations and give them reason for optimism.
The best thing you can do when starting managing a new team is to get their buy in and trust. From there, the promises you keep, and the things you deliver on for them will help keep your team bought in to you as their leader.
Asking what their past managers have done well or poorly is a great way to start building a great foundation for working with them.
3) “How do you like to receive feedback? What works best for you?”
“Few things are harder than trying to give someone feedback; doing it in a way that you think they’ll be most able to hear it is invaluable.”
By asking this question before you have a bunch of feedback to give them, you’re able to dig up clues about how you can present your feedback in a way that they’ll be most receptive to when the time comes.
4) “What’s something you do regularly outside of work that’s really important to you?”
Rapport is foundational to your relationship with your team members. It makes it easier to communicate, including giving and receiving feedback, as well as opening up about issues. Think about the difference you feel when a trusted friend or family member tells you something you need to hear versus a stranger.
Building rapport with your employees is one of the most effective ways to improve engagement:
This question, however, isn’t just about building rapport. You could ask a variety of questions to get to know them and build trust.
There’s another reason you should ask about their favorite or most important activities outside work: avoiding burnout.
Balancing work and well-being is difficult, but it’s not just an individual effort. You can help your team come into work happier, more engaged, and help them avoid burnout. And it all comes down to asking the right question now so you can avoid those potential issues in the future.