questions to develop employees with

The Most Common Employee Development Question that Misses the Mark

Written by: Monica Steffeck, CTEO

(and what to ask instead)

“What should I do?” is the most common employee development question, by far, we hear from those wishing, wanting, and trying to grow their impact. It’s a good question and worth evaluating and answering yourself, however, I think it’s a less important question that should always be asked after a different and more important employee development question.

When you ask yourself “what should I do?” first, you are focused on activity rather than behavior. Activity is a result of behavior, so it should be preceded by a behavior question.

career development questions to ask employees

Activity after behavior

  • Your activity doesn’t necessarily equal progress or growth.
  • When you approach projects/work experiences with this mindset (asking, “how do I want to grow as a result?”) means you’ll focus on what success looks like and you can learn through the experience at hand.

Asking this question first often produces a variety of actions or list of job duties as well as some fear-based follow up questions like these (ever found yourself reciting these in your head? I have!):

  • What if I take the wrong step?
  • What if I miss something because my time is invested wrongly?
  • Will I be unsuccessful or miss an opportunity by choosing the wrong step?
development questions for employees

What to ask instead

Ask, “who should I be?” Refining your behavior produces a much more meaningful result as it relates more to your long-term performance than doing any specific project or taking a specific action. Plus, a large volume of activity that seems like what a future role might do, may not be transferable to your actual path of development or be meaningful long term. The right behaviors will be relevant across time, role, employer, and whether you’re at home or at work.

Who we are defines our path more dramatically than what we do. After all, it reaches beyond current job, location, audience, and self-image. Who we are defines what we do and how we choose. It also defines how others experience us, how we accomplish our work, and the results we achieve.

Key takeaway

Next time you’re evaluating how to grow and develop, earn more money, get a promotion, make a relationship great, or improve your life, ask first “who should I be?” and then “what should I do?”

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