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Are you happy? and other important questions to ask your team

I recently had breakfast with an important member of my management team. A young, sharp leader, this manager possesses an eagerness to learn that is nearly unmatched in my company. I learned early on that without new learning opportunities she loses motivation, so I’ve taken time to mentor her and have given her many opportunities to learn new skills.

Over coffee, we discussed her level of happiness with her job. During the conversation, I was surprised to learn about some areas that she’s particularly enthusiastic about. We talked about this in terms of stress that gives energy and stress that takes energy away. I learned she was getting energy from doing things I didn’t realize she enjoyed.

This made me realize that I should be having these kinds of conversations with my managers more often. Here are the questions I feel all business owners and executives should be able to answer about their team:

What are the strengths of individual managers? While it’s tempting to try to coach someone to be stronger in an area of weakness, this is not likely to create substantial change. On the other hand, coaching someone in an area in which they are naturally strong can create phenomenal change. There is an easy and inexpensive way to get a quick read on this: StrengthFinders (less than $15 on Amazon). I’ve been surprised by some of my team’s strengths and its helped me to push them where they have natural skills to improve instead of creating frustration with corrective coaching in areas of weakness.

What motivates individuals? Each person has a different driver that gets them out of bed in the morning. These are the things that provide energizing stress. I’ve found that I can work under phenomenal levels of stress and still have energy when I’m in a competitive environment where I can be measured against my peers. I also know that I thrive under pressure and it’s important to me that my opinion is valued. The manager I mentioned thrives in strategic settings with client or board presentations. She thrives in these situations, so providing her more strategic opportunities gives her more energy.

What makes individuals feel successful? There seems to be a stigma around people being honest in interviews about these answers. For example, why is it such a bad thing that people measure their success by income level? If that’s what makes them tick, then ignoring it will only make everything more difficult. I am very competitive so I tend to measure myself against my peers. This is true whether I’m on a treadmill, the golf course, a dance floor or in the office. That measurement is what drives me. For others, it’s career growth, title changes, lifestyle advantages, awards, recognition, etc. Knowing this allows managers to create incentives that truly impact behavior.

What are the goals of your team members? Knowing another person’s goals helps extend the business past the office, and enables managers to be mentors. Why should I be afraid of a team member having a goal outside my department or outside my company? Truthfully understanding these goals and helping someone move towards them fosters loyalty and respect.

Getting to know your employees, their goals, motivators and drivers will help build a more productive and loyal work environment. It’s important to revisit these questions frequently because goals change as life evolves.

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About Jenny Vance

Jenny Vance is one of the leading women entrepreneurs in Indianapolis. She is the co- founder of LeadJen, a lead generation company, which she has grown to nearly 100 employees serving hundreds of companies across the United States, ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500. She also is co-founder of Salesvue (formerly Jesubi), a CRM software…