My management mantra has always been “what would I like my manager to do in this position?”. That gave rise to the following set of questions that I ask every new person who reports to me, either as a transfer or new-hire, to start off on the right foot.
- What would you prefer your core work hours to be?
I’m not monitoring when my reports are in and out of the office every day (far from it), but knowing if they are a morning or evening person helps me know how they work best and when to start getting worried if they don’t show up and I haven’t heard from them.
- During those core hours, what hours would you like to have meetings?
Are there certain days of the week or times of the day you would prefer to not have meetings?
I view one of my primary objectives as a manager to buffer my folks from interruptions. One way I can do that is to make sure I’m scheduling meetings at times that are good for the employee. For example, if they prefer to eat lunch at 11a I’ll try my best not to schedule a meeting with them then. I also try to enforce meeting-free Thursdays to give a solid block of Maker time and enable people to work from home.
- How often would you like to have one-on-ones?
Setting up reoccurring 1:1s are important, as is knowing how frequently the person wants to meet. We may have a discussion if their desired frequency is the right amount, but most people know how often they want to check in with their manager.
- How do you like to communicate? (Slack/email/in-person/phone/etc)
I think this is one of the most important questions. Part of buffering folks from interruptions is buffering them from my interruptions too. If someone prefers email to Slack, I’ll drop them a more coherent email rather than a train-of-thought IM. If someone would rather me stop by their desk to ask something rather than send an IM (and I have a couple of folks who prefer this), I’m happy to oblige.
Thus far these questions have been well-received and knowing the answer has improved my ability to effectively manage my employees and communicate with them.
What questions do you ask your direct reports or wish your manager would ask you?
One thought on “My questions for new direct reports”
Great questions! I’ll probably be starting the process of moving into a management position next year, which is an elaborate two-year program of lots of training and assessment centers and stuff around here. They’ll probably totally miss that kind of down-to-earth practical stuff, though.
I’d probably like to be asked a different set of questions in addition to that: What aspects of my current job do I enjoy most/least and what do I consider myself to be particularly good at? I very recently figured out that there’s a huge difference between what I like to do and what I’m actually good at. This kind of information would give a starting point to talk about professional development later on.
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