The questions you should be asking your Project Team

Project Managers normally use the same questions to understand the current status of their project and tasks assigned. We get so used to asking the same questions that it becomes a habit: What’s the status on this? How are we getting on? Perhaps it’s time to look at some other questions to assess the health of your project. Are you team members happy? Are they able to do their work without being impeded by others? What are they most looking forward to in delivering this project?

I recently gave a webinar on on this topic and it was really interesting to see the questions that people ask and how a slight re-orientation of the question could provide different results.

When it comes to the latest status; I want to make sure that I      ’m asking the right questions to get the answers that I need. You could ask yourself; well when I ask my team something, I’m given the information I need…  but are you given all of it?

Are you given it all without secondary prodding? For me as a Project Manager it’s been learning what are the right questions to ask and more importantly understanding why I need to ask them and why they are important. It’s also about being considerate of the culture that you’re working with as some questions may receive a different response depending on which culture you speak to.

Question reorientation

If you reorientate some of your questions you’re likely to get a different answer, this answer could help you identify issues or impediments quicker and also enables you to build trust within your team. It sounds magical doesn’t it? But trust me, it works! Let me give you an example:

  • What do you need? ==> What can I do to make you a success?

This is a really simple change and very easy quick win. I ask this because I want to understand what makes that team member tick. I would normally do this 1-1 so that I can get an honest answer. if you’re able to ensure that there are limited or no impediments to your team members success, it’ll help them do your tasks and it shows that you care.

  • What did you do wrong last week? ==> Was there anything you didn’t like in the last sprint?

Providing a positive mindset to your team will encourage them and show them that you won’t be blaming any of the team. By asking what you can improve, you can also ask your team to identify a solution and it’ll be a solution that they’ll own and be a part of.

  • Can you finish your deliverable by the due date? ==> How much time/effort do you need to finish your deliverable?

The former part of this question is from traditional project management. It’s also a leading question. A better one is “How much effort and time do you need to finish your deliverable?”  This is an open question that makes the team think, and starts a dialogue, in contrast to the solicitation of sheepish agreement to a deadline to which the team member that’s doing the job may have had little say in. Some team members, particularly juniors or certain teams offsite, will agree to whatever is put before them because they think they must agree to meet deadlines or else it will reflect poorly on them. I’ve seen a lot of ghosting of time by team members to meet unrealistic deadlines and this can cause a lot of problems further down the project.

By empowering your team and showing your trust in them, it’ll help to build their trust in you.


This is just a few examples of where a slight reorientation of how you ask a question, could give you those answers that help identify when something is going wrong.

A few weeks after the webinar, I received a lot of emails from people who had changed their questions and were getting a lot of different results including one Project Manager who identified a major risk that the team were too afraid to tell them before!

What do you think? What questions do you ask your team?


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