Too often evaluation questions are set up to provide data but not actionable information that can result in real change. We ask people to rate the quality of a session on a Likert 1-5 scale, but in the end, it doesn’t tell us much. The restaurant manager asks: “How was your meal?” but likely only hears “fine” or some other generic answer.  We ask staff “how’s it going?” while in passing, and convince ourselves that we’re asking them for real feedback.

If you want to obtain useable information to help you understand your employees or volunteers here is a sampling of questions that you may adapt toward that end:

  • What do I do that is most helpful to you?
  • What should I stop doing?
  • What’s the hardest part of your role?
  • What’s the best part of your role?
  • What’s the one thing that you wish we did differently?
  • What’s one thing I could do to make things better/easier for you?
  • What’s one piece of advice you would give me?
  • What’s one piece of advice you would give to a new member of your team?
  • What’s one piece of advice you would give to someone taking your role?
  • What’s one thing you wish you did better in your role?
  • On a spectrum of invaluable to useless, how would you rate _______?
  • On a spectrum of a micromanager to not available, how would you rate the amount of interaction you have with me?
  • On a spectrum of perfect to lacking, how would you rate the amount of information you receive from me?
  • On a spectrum of perfect to lacking, how would you rate the amount of interaction you have with the other staff?
  • What’s one change you would make to my communication to you?
  • On a spectrum of thrilled to worried, how do you feel about your team? Why?
  • Give yourself some feedback. You’d be an awesome employee if only….
  • Give me some feedback. I’d be an awesome supervisor if only…
  • What I wish we had available to us that we don’t is…
  • The one thing I probably do differently for my team than other team leaders is…
  • The hardest process for me to follow to the letter is…
  • On a spectrum of well prepared to faking it, how do you feel about the knowledge you have to fill your role effectively?
  • What’s one thing you could do to make your team stronger/more effective/more cohesive/more XX?
  • The one thing you’d like more information about is …

You get the idea. Asking about “one thing” helps narrow the focus and takes the pressure off them to believe they are naming “everything” or to avoid giving an answer at all. When you use “on a spectrum” questions, you help people see that there are extremes at both ends and they can assess where they fall which is much more helpful than a “yes or no” answer.

Play around with these prompts and see if you can actually learn something from your next opportunity to get feedback. Hopefully, on a spectrum of useful to worthless, you’ll find them on the quite useful end of the scale!

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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