4 Questions to Decrease Anxiety in Your Team

It might seem odd to you that I am writing a leadership blog on performance management in the middle of my fiscal year. Most organizations and leaders conduct performance management at the end of the fiscal period to address how the year transpired and to evaluate how effective their teams were at meeting goals. Performance management can be a valuable exercise in:
  • setting higher expectations,
  • holding underperformers accountable, and
  • helping to celebrate the individual and team wins in a public way across the organization.
Unfortunately, performance management can also have a downside. It can create anxiety among employees and set up one-way communication that strains a collaborative work culture most organizations strive to achieve.

I turned the tables around in my performance management approach.

I allow myself to be evaluated by team members. I, too, can have a check-in on where my leadership is strong and where I might have an opportunity for improvement. I have identified four questions that have really helped to decrease anxiety and foster a culture of innovation in the teams I lead.  I typically assign them a week before our performance evaluation meeting in order to give my team members plenty of time to prepare. Both myself and the employee will take turns answering each question alternating who goes first each time.

This two-way conversation is key.

  1. What is our mission and what have you done this year that aligns with our mission?

I don’t want our mission statement to be some long, rambling statement that is workshopped for a day and then put into a binder that gathers dust. It is important to me that our team knows our mission, can speak to it and keeps it front and center with every strategic decision made. When I ask this question, I am looking for alignment. I am hoping to see that my team members are thinking about living the mission in their day-to-day work—making operational decisions with the mission in mind. This focused approach to making sure the mission permeates our strategic and operational decision-making goes a long way towards creating the culture that we want to have.

  1. What is something that I am doing by accident or on purpose that is really helping you do your job and you want to make sure I keep doing?

Many times, we are not aware of the great things we are doing or the small gesture we may have made towards someone that really made a difference. The responses to this question may be as simple as having an open-door policy, insisting that e-mails get a 48 hour response, to as detailed as creating quarterly workshops that teach technological skills such as Mastering Google Drive or Organizing: 101. 

  1. What is something that I am doing or have control of that makes it difficult for you to do your job that I need to stop doing?

No leader wants to make their team members’ jobs more difficult. We are all in the same boat trying to achieve the same goals.  However, there are times when we flounder and create inefficiencies—making more work for the people. It’s important that we take stock of ourselves and give folks permission to be critical of things across the organization in order for us to be a high performing team. Asking this question led me to change the way I called meetings. I found out that a two-week window was impacting some of our teams. They had clients lined up three to four weeks in advance. They couldn’t abandon their clients and felt left out of the departmental meetings. They missed the information sharing, the banter that went around and the general camaraderie that was part of us all getting together. I was getting frustrated with sporadic attendance and people coming and going during meetings. A simple change was made, and at the end of the fiscal period, we layed out the entire year’s meetings so the team could plan accordingly. 

  1. What is something you have seen elsewhere that we need to bring here to our team?

I love to end with this question because it is about energy and innovation. Team members get excited about sharing an idea that they want to implement. I got the idea of ‘No Meetings Friday’ during our virtual life from this exercise.

What questions or tactics have you used effectively, (or NOT effectively) with your teams?

As always, I love to hear your feedback and ideas.


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