How to be more effective at work? Ask Questions!

How to be more effective at work? Ask Questions!

Everyone in the organisation, over time should focus on making themselves more effective and efficient at what they do. Continuous improvement is the key to success for any organisation. But how does one do that? It’s quite simple. By asking questions!

Managers have many responsibilities apart from managing their own as well as their team’s stuff. They need to keep an eye on various initiatives even though they may not be actively involved in many of these. It also becomes a manager’s responsibility to make sure that every individual is motivated enough & is making best possible contribution towards the overall progress. So it is imperative that they ask pertinent questions from time to time to determine the status of each.

Managers to themselves:

The process should begin with reflection on one’s own performance based on following questions:

How am I helping to achieve the company’s objectives?

This is the first and foremost question any manager needs to ask himself or herself. They should be able to understand what does the company hope to achieve in the immediate future as well as  the next 2-3 years and where does it want to reach in the long term. Only then can they come up with short term goals that can efficiently support the overall strategic goals.

How is my team contributing towards the company’s objectives?

Managers are not supposed to perform all the tasks required to achieve those objectives. They need to assess all the resources at their disposal and decide how best to utilise these. Higher level goals can be broken down further to a more tactical and/or operational level and aligned with teams and individuals in a way that all efforts are guided towards achievement of one common goal.

What should have been the progress so far?

At each monthly or quarterly checkpoint, they need to assess the progress of their teams. What was the expected ROI and whether it has been exceeded. If not, managers need to find out what have been the bottlenecks in the process. It is necessary to find out the cause of these delays, as it affects dependent teams as well as further stages of the process. Make use of suitable tools that can help simplify the process and increase employee involvement. Lack of a streamlined process and tool is one of the reasons why organisations fail to achieve goals.

What steps should I take to increase performance levels of my team?

Irrespective of a poor, average or good performance, managers need to strive to continuously develop their team members. It is absolutely necessary that the former 2 categories receive help immediately but those with good performance too should be guided to go a step further. On the one hand it helps the team realise their own potential and increase their performance levels, and on the other hand, the managers can get a lot more done in lesser time.

What should be my target for the next quarter?

It is not sufficient that you keep on setting the same targets every quarter. You need to push yourself out of your comfort level and strive to achieve more that what you previously thought was possible. The art of stretch goals dictates just that. If you have been able to achieve 100% goals then you need to challenge yourself the next time and set targets that go beyond these i.e. you should stretch your limits as you go along.

Managers to Team Members:

Is everyone clear about what is expected of them?

There are times when to appear intelligent, employees simply nod along when asked if they have understood their responsibilities even though that may not be the case. Thus more often than not, they do not meet manager’s expectations which leads to the entire team suffering a setback. In such cases, managers need to make sure if these employees have truly understood what they are supposed to do and if not immediately set them on the right track. This way lot of time and money is saved.

What are the challenges they are facing?

Companies that still carry out annual performance reviews have problems when dealing with challenges in a timely manner. You cannot wait for an entire year to understand and address if any of the employees are facing challenges that is hampering their productivity. Their managers need to check in with them from time to time and resolve such issues at the earliest. This is beneficial both for the employees as well as the company.

Do they require any resources that would be helpful?

Employees could be performing at higher levels than expected yet there could be instances where, if they are given additional resources or knowledge of better tools and techniques, their performances could increase manifold. Though this is largely beneficial for the company, for employees it is a chance to grow and increase their skill sets further. Companies that provide such opportunities have higher employee engagement and a more productive work environment.

Are they satisfied with their roles and responsibilities?

From time to time, it is necessary to understand if the employees are satisfied with the responsibilities bestowed on them. If not, there will be an obvious drop in performance levels and development of negative attitude towards the management. Managers can consult dissatisfied team members and identify ways to re-align their roles that are more suited for their skill sets and desires.

Is the work environment suitable for employees to perform at optimum levels?

Sometimes certain aspects of the office too can be detrimental to employee performance. Though such factors are more the responsibility of the HR department, it shows the positive attitude of managers towards the welfare of their employees. Individuals get to see that their managers actually care for their well being and are thus more willing to put in that extra efforts.

Though feedback is not a one way process. Agile performance management concepts such as 360 Degree Feedback and a couple others encourage employees to also seek feedback at regular intervals. Thus, when managers organise these one-on-one meetings, it is wise for employees too to ask the following questions:

Team Members to Manager:

What are the areas that I need to improve on?

Your weaknesses may not always be visible to you and so require another person’s perspective to be revealed. Your managers are the ones who always closely monitor your performance and are in a better position to share analysis of the areas you lack in. That which you think is satisfactory may not be the same for them. While you think on a more day to day basis, they can provide a view that is more holistic and beneficial for long term.

What are the strengths that I should focus on?

Similarly, managers understand your skill sets really well and help you to focus more on your strengths to get the best out of you. By focusing on your strengths, you can seek related responsibilities accordingly.

Is my contribution at levels expected of me?

We always worry about whether or not we are meeting our targets. While some may be quantitative and fairly obvious to understand, there are some that are more subjective in nature, even if they are not part of the evaluation process. It is best to approach your managers at regular intervals and find out the same. If there are any gaps, they can help you with fixing these and subsequently get you up to speed.


To summarise, we recommend that managers as well as employees should not wait for formal procedures to give or seek feedback. Break free from the shackles of traditional methods and  build a culture of continuous feedback. The best way to keep a check on your performance is by asking the right questions at the right time to the right people. It won’t take up a lot of your time yet will provide valuable feedback and scope for improvement.