Team members often spend time thinking of ways to improve their workplace environment and the policies and procedures in place within it. Intelligent, driven employees often envision changes they would make in their organizations if they were in charge, but when asked what their managers could do to better support them, many find it difficult to articulate their feelings and thoughts on this topic.
To give both sides some useful ideas to consider, 15 members of Forbes Coaches Council share ways managers could better support team members, and how they should phrase their questions when seeking this kind of feedback from employees.
1. Ask What Support Means To Them
Keep it simple. Ask them what support means to them. If someone were showing support, what would they be doing and saying? How are they showing up? That allows the manager to reflect and assess their own actions. Where are they aligned or disconnected? Which behaviors would best show support? Each person is motivated and supported in different ways. Just ask them what “right” looks and feels like. – Shelley Smith, Premier Rapport
2. Articulate The Top Priority Or Goal
Help employees prioritize work, hold boundaries and say “no” to requests from other teams or departments. The biggest way a manager can support their team is by articulating what the top priority or goal is for each team member and shielding them from competing priorities that might confuse or overwhelm and distract them from their goal. – Stacy Campesi, SLC Coaching
3. Don’t See Them Only As Workers
Try not to see team members only as workers. Ask how you can support them and the things they are committed to and care about outside of work as well as on the job. When you prioritize people’s lives beyond just their livelihoods, they’ll feel supported, knowing that they can bring their whole, multidimensional selves to work. – Kathy Morris, Under Advisement , Ltd.
4. Invite Their Feedback Through A Neutral Third Party
Direct reports are notoriously and understandably reluctant to share direct feedback with managers, even ones they like and trust. Ideally, use an external third-party consultant, whose profession and integrity are rooted in confidentiality and discretion. This becomes a safe gateway for feedback to managers. The key, then, is to visibly act on it. – April Armstrong, AHA Insight
5. Show How Much You Appreciate Them
Seeing is better than explaining. Show your people how much you appreciate their skills and abilities by taking time to sit with them, asking them to show you firsthand how they have mastered their role. Have them talk you through their thought process. Ask questions to help you identify areas where leveraging your influence can help make their work easier. – Erica McCurdy, McCurdy Solutions Group LLC
6. Ask What Would Make Their Job Or Task Easier
Ask, “What would make your job/task easier? What barriers get in the way?” These questions can quickly identify where a manager can lean in to assist. Often, the biggest impact a manager can have in supporting their employees is removing barriers to allow them to work even more efficiently and effectively. A third useful question is, “What unexpectedly consumes your time?” – Faith Fuqua-Purvis, Synergetic Solutions Consulting LLC
7. Make Discussions On The Topic Of Support Purpose-Driven
Make discussing the topic of support purpose-driven by asking your team of direct reports, “What do we do to effectively serve our customers, and how do we all support each other?” Then ask, “What can we do to better serve our internal or external customers, and what changes would we make as a team and individually?” Get alignment on one to three actions. Then ask, “What can I do to support you to make those changes?” – Mark Samuel, IMPAQ Corporation
8. Meet With Each Team Member One-On-One
Meet with each team member one-on-one, as it is often easier for them to say what they need without others around. These meetings can follow the same format: Ask, “What are you working on?” Then ask, “What challenges are you coming up against?” Finally, ask, “Are there any obstacles I can remove for you?” For example, their commitments at home may mean they struggle to attend late meetings in person, so flexible working arrangements could solve the problem. – Victoria Canham, Ahead Together Ltd
9. Ask Them What Their Goals Are
Managers, bosses and leaders often assume they know the personal and professional goals of team members. This assumption is typically based on their own goals for their employees and where they want to see them go, which creates gaps in reality and in the relationship. Ask each team member what their personal and professional goals are. Identify and offer ways to support them. Follow up regularly. – Christie Garcia, Mindful Choice, LLC.
10. Encourage Them To Delegate Down
One way that managers can better support their team is to encourage them to delegate down and explore options for doing so. Many people wrongly assume they have to do everything personally and miss opportunities to add more value by delegating low-value tasks. To initiate the discussion, instead of asking what you can and can’t do, ask if you can confirm your assumptions. – Steve McIntosh, CareerPoint.com
11. Narrow Down The Choices And Be Specific
Narrow down the choices. When we ask a generic question such as, “How can I support you?” the universe of potential answers is too wide. Instead, ask, “What are one or two things I can do to support you as you’re doing X?” This focuses others’ thoughts more quickly and gives them a smaller universe to select an answer from. Additionally, if they tell you what they need, then do it. Otherwise, you’re sending a message that your offer is just for show. – Darcy Eikenberg, Red Cape Revolution
12. Regularly Observe Daily Operations
Often, teams are too used to working ineffectively and may not realize there are solutions to some of these burdens they’ve just become accustomed to. Due to this, as a practice, I regularly observe the daily operations of teams (which they’re aware of) to understand their work activities. I then use this as a conversation starter to get further buy-in on how they can be better supported. – Aileen Day, Aileen Day Advisory
13. Show Support By Caring For Their Time
I think it is important to show support for your people by caring for their time. In order to do this, you have to give them space and let them breathe. Implementing a meeting-blackout time where no meetings can be scheduled and employees are free from interruptions and distractions, for example, can go a long way in showing support for your employees. – Jon Dwoskin, The Jon Dwoskin Experience
14. Use An Anonymous Suggestion Box
I recommend using an anonymous suggestion box where all team members can contribute thoughts and ideas on how to make things better. These can be read out loud at the team meeting, or if a personal one-on-one is preferred, they can note that in their suggestion as well. Team members working in the same office are usually struggling with similar problems. – Jacquelyn Van Tuyl, Jacquelyn Van Tuyl International
15. Ask About Specific Areas Where They Often Struggle
Asking, “How can I support you?” is a little bit like having an open-door policy. Both of these ask your team members to do the heavy lifting for you. Instead, proactively normalize areas where team members often struggle—communication, time management, delegation and conflict—and ask, “Which of these are you struggling with, and what would success look like?” Then, design a plan with them to bridge the gap. – Steve Salee, Wildfire Strategies