Conversation Starters for High Performance

As a supervisor, you play an important role in making sure that communication between you and your employees remain open and healthy. This helps ensure that you and your employees participate in regular, meaningful one-on-one meetings. There can be situations where it is difficult to know how to start a conversation and how to keep it going.

The following are some questions to keep the conversations relevant, focused and valuable.


By asking employees job-related questions (in no particular order), it can increase engagement while at the same time conveying just how important employees are to the organization.

These questions help you learn what’s important to your employee, including what encourages/discourages, what they like/dislike about their job and what they need to be successful.

  • What talents or skills do you have that you are not using often enough in your work today?
  • If you could change one thing about your work, your role, or your responsibilities, what would it be?
  • What type of support or assistance would help you to do your job better?
  • What are the stressors/issues that affect or demotivate you?
  • What aspect of your work are you most proud of?
  • What do you find most rewarding about your current work/role?
  • What do you enjoy least/most about your job/work?
  • What would make your job easier? More fulfilling?
  • What do you need from me to support you in your role?
  • If your role changed completely, what would you miss the most?


Effective goal supervision and goal achievement requires a continuous dialogue to assure priorities are on track. This helps you determine what support is needed.

  • How do you feel your goals are progressing?
  • Which goals are causing concern to you?
  • What could I begin or stop doing to help you accomplish your goals?
  • What obstacles are preventing you from accomplishing your goals?
  • What skills gaps do you see, that, if left unattended, may might prevent you from reaching your goals?

Career Development

Employees need to know that they have the opportunity to progress in their careers and expand or enhance their knowledge, skills and experience.

Gain a deeper understanding of your employees’ aspirations and career goals by asking the following questions.

  • When thinking about your long term career, what is important to you?
  • What are your career aspirations – short and long term? Where do you hope to be in 5 and 10 years?
  • How can I help you on your career path?
  • What training, skills and development would help in your career advancement?

Learning and Development

It is important to the organization to develop and enrich the skills and experiences of employee on an ongoing basis.

Start your conversation by asking employees what they want and need.

  • What would you like to learn more about?
  • What might be one area for development that would help you to perform more effectively?
  • What types of training or development opportunities would interest you in the weeks and months to come?

Project – Specific

Focusing your attention on a recent project can help you learn more about your employee and also help your employees learn more about themselves and growth opportunities.

These experience-/project-related questions help to demonstrate your interest in your employees and to gain insight into their course of action.

  • What was most challenging about a recent project? Why?
  • Do you think the project was a success?
  • Looking at a recent project, where were opportunities to improve the process (or quality, timing, etc.)?
  • What most surprised you while working on a recent project?
  • What would you do differently next time?