The best managers know that top employees today have a multitude of options when it comes to choosing their workplace. In an era where retention is becoming increasingly difficult, there are only three questions you need to ask to keep tabs on how your team feels and keep morale high.
Here they are:
1. Do we have a high level of trust?
When someone accepts an employment offer, it's usually a sign of mutual trust. The signature implies, "You trust me to do the work you need done, and I trust you to financially take care of me and my family."
Yet, "earning and keeping trust" is different for everyone. Inevitably, as a leader, there are occasions where you do something that violates the trust of someone on your team (you miss a deadline, forget to share important information, etc.). Sometimes you don't even know an action you took or something you said violated trust, so it's important to ask.
One of my mentors, Dan Tyre of Hubspot, starts every conversation with "Do we have a high level of trust?" knowing that if we don't have a mutual trust, nothing we say to each other will carry any weight. The conversation will be unproductive and a waste of time. If trust has slipped, the next question to ask is "how can we rebuild our trust and continue to work together?"
2. Do you feel like you have the space to voice your concerns and be heard?
Part of earning trust includes giving your team a space to voice their concerns. If a team member feels they've been given an unrealistic goal, but can't talk to you about it, you've created a recipe for resentment and employee turnover.
You should spend a little time every week with your direct reports to simply listen to their ideas, comments, and concerns. At Forge, we call these one-on-ones. I spend 30 minutes with everyone on my team. It's a space for them to share their ideas and for me to simply listen to understand (as opposed to listening to respond).
I've found these 30 minutes make all the difference in team morale and cohesion.
3. What can I be doing to make you more successful?
The best employees are often the best because they're constantly learning, developing themselves, and reaching for their goals. Taking the time to ask your team how you can help shows you're committed to making them successful both inside and outside of the workplace. It builds loyalty and trust, but most important, it shows you care.
Larger companies like Starbucks and Disney might sponsor college courses, but even at a startup, you can offer to purchase books, make introductions to industry leaders, or buy a Udemy course for your team to level up their skills.
For each of these questions, asking is just the start. Then it's up to you to think about your team's responses and find the most appropriate way to act on them.