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Six Powerful Questions to Engage and Empower Employees

2 minute read

By Antoinette Oglethorpe

For business leaders keen on fostering a holistic view of their employees, helping them realise their potential is key. Crucial to this is engaging and empowering employees, which lays the groundwork for organisational growth and success. One effective way to achieve this is through meaningful career conversations that go beyond performance evaluations and delve into employees' aspirations, goals, and challenges. By asking powerful solution-focused questions, managers and leaders can create a supportive environment that engages employees, encourages growth, and aligns individual aspirations with organisational objectives.

Here's a set of six conversation starters that can steer engaging and empowering discussions:

  1. "What do you not want to change about your current work situation?” This question encourages employees to reflect on the aspects they appreciate in their current situation - for instance, location, colleagues, work culture, or childcare arrangements. It nudges them to appreciate the positive practicalities of their current situation.
  2. "What would you like to be different?" Asking this question motivates employees to identify the areas in their current roles that they'd prefer to change or develop. Listening carefully to their response can reveal opportunities for improving their current role or considering alternatives.
  3. "What would be the benefit of that?" Change is essential for career development, but individuals need to see personal benefits to embrace change. Asking about the benefits of making a change motivates employees by helping them envision the positive outcomes, whether that be skill development, stress reduction, personal growth, or perhaps even more personal rewards.
  4. “Suppose you could wave a magic wand and develop your career in exactly the way you’d like to. What would you be doing?” This ‘magic wand’ question encourages employees to articulate their long-term aspirations beyond mere job titles. By describing in detail their ideal life, employees can explore various routes to get there. Understanding their aspirations helps you identify how best to support their development.
  5. "What skills, knowledge, experience and/or relationships do you need to develop?” Asking employees about the skills or knowledge they need to acquire, demonstrates your commitment to their professional growth. By actively listening to their responses, you can help them identify areas for growth and offer training, mentoring, or stretch assignments that enable them to develop those skills.
  6. “What steps will you take in the next 3 months to make progress?” This question encourages employees to identify actionable steps, however small, towards their goal. It opens up discussions on how you can support them, thus showing your commitment to their success and boosting their confidence.

By asking these six powerful career conversation questions, you can foster a culture of growth, alignment, and support within your organisation. Remember, the key lies in actively listening, demonstrating empathy, and taking concrete actions to support your employees' aspirations and goals. When employees feel valued and empowered, they become more committed, productive, and loyal contributors to the organisation's success.

Antoinette Oglethorpe is author of Confident Career Conversations: Empower Your Employees for Career Growth and Retention  published by Rethink Press.

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