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In a recent HBR article on what enables companies to thrive, the author identified a number of well known factors including:

  • Aligning individuals’ personal goals with the meaning and purpose of the work they do
  • Creating an environment for meaningful, authentic human connection
  • Actively nurturing and protecting a culture of psychological safety
  • Empowering staff by encouraging responsible autonomy
  • Supporting lifelong learning
  • Growing the company itself in terms of the markets it targets, the products or services offered, and the customer problems it focuses on solving

But moving from the macro to the micro scale, could we apply this at a team level with our individual team members?

One way is to start by asking questions which will help us understand where we currently are. Here are six examples to help you get started in your next one-on-one session.

  1. How well does the work you are doing align or connect with your own goals as well as those of our company?
  2. How connected do you feel to the rest of our team and what ideas do you have on improving the overall sense of connection within our team?
  3. What more could I do to support you to make you feel comfortable about trying something new, speaking up when you see something isn’t right?
  4. How much control do you feel you have over how you do your daily work and what activities or decisions are there over which you’d like more authority?
  5. What new knowledge or skills have you gained recently, how are you continuing to learn, and what could I do to make your learning more effective?
  6. What are the growth areas for our company which we are currently pursuing and what other opportunities do you feel are worth pursuing?

As these are open-ended questions you will want to follow up after each is answered with other open ended questions (e.g. What else comes to mind?) if your team member provides a brief or closed response.

The insights you’ll gain through these conversations will help you to create a backlog of improvement experiments to help individuals within the team or the team as a whole. And by asking these or similar questions on a periodic basis, you’ll be able to see whether the changes you introduce are having a positive effect.

The HBR article’s author felt that when environments exhibited the six listed factors it would help to unleash “human magic”. But there’s nothing magical about how to achieve this. Sustained effort and a commitment to continuous improvement on the part of all leaders are two of the necessary ingredients.

(If you liked this article, why not read my book Easy in Theory, Difficult in Practice which contains 100 other lessons on project leadership? It’s available on  and on  as well as a number of other online book stores)

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