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How to Improve Work Efficiency: 20 Productive Questions to Ask

Updated: Apr 5, 2023

I have always been fascinated by how people work differently and how little time or not at all is spent on discussing working styles. Why start working with people without discussing and agreeing how you are going to work together? We seem to start working without understanding other peoples' working and leadership styles and before you are know it you start to irritate each other.

For example, I have heard people say (complaining):

  • So and so is sending super long emails

  • So and so is sending short emails with no enough detail

  • So and so is sending unnecessary emails

  • So and so set up meetings that could have been an email or a short direct call

These people were never told and given this feedback.

This has always puzzled me in the working world.

This is also another reason why asking for feedback is also difficult. We start working with someone without discussing how they would like to work with us and also to discuss each other working styles. This is a true productivity and work relationship managed proactively in my view.

I learn a lot through observing. My career started by working full time in the office. I have observed so many good and bad interactions, meetings, conversations, discussions. I do often wonder as to how younger generation will learn to master the world of work. I often think about it in order to come up with some solutions.

How to ACTUALLY work

In any event, this is how I work:

When I start a new role, I always in my initial introduction meetings with everyone (my manager, my new team, stakeholders etc) discuss how they like to work, their leadership and management style and I also share mine. It is a chance to 'contract' how we are going to work together and also understand where we need to adapt each other's styles.

I also do this as I don't like to overthink. This is not my style. I like to know how you like to work before we start working. I am trying to make it easy for everyone's sake.

Below is a list of questions I ask when I start to partner my stakeholders as an HR Business Partner (adapt it further to all other conversation you may have with your manager, co workers etc):

  1. What is your communication style? What works for you? How do you like to communicate with people?

  2. Do you like emails (long or short). Do you like detail/data or just high level information?

  3. Can I randomly call you or instant message with my queries? If yes, do you like phone calls, texts or instant messages? Which medium do you prefer?

  4. Would you like me to list all of my questions and discuss in our meetings or are you happy for me to contact you as they arise? [NOTE: for senior stakeholder engagement, it is best to wait for a proper 1:1 where you can go through a list of your questions in an organised way rather than randomly ask them]

  5. Would you like me to set up regular meetings in our diaries with agenda? If yes, should we meet weekly, bi weekly or monthly? [NOTE: this is relevant if you have to work with them on a regular basis]

  6. What could our regular agenda be? (for example, people date, progress to date, challenges, opportunities, interests and any other business)

  7. What is your leadership style? Could you describe it to me?

  8. How do you like to work with your team?

  9. How would you describe your leadership team?

  10. How do you like to manage people?

  11. What are you biggest concerns at the moment? What are the team challenges at the moment, where can I start adding value?

  12. I am keen to ensure my objectives align to your objectives, both personal and team, could you please share with me your key objectives to see where I can add value further? [NOTE: See if you can rank them in priority order so you know which ones are more important.]

  13. What would you like me to focus on for the first quarter in my role/the first 12 months?

  14. Could we agree my annual or quarterly objectives that may be subject to change in any event as sometimes roles and business can be unpredictable?

  15. How would you like me to request feedback from time to time to ensure I am performing well in my role and for growth opportunities?

  16. Is there anything that could wake you up work related that I need be aware of where I can add value most as a priority?

  17. What quick wins could I help with? (NOTE: as a result of you now joining, what can you do, enable, solve fairly quickly as it is in your remit and gift to do so)

  18. Could you share with me your views on our HR function, HR professionals you worked with to do both here and other organisations? (NOTE: this is important to ask to see who and how their HR experience and perception was shaped. Adapt this question to your own role and team).

  19. Do you have any previous [people] plans you could share with me to review? If not, no worries, we can work together on one.

  20. Is there anything else I should know?

Once this has been discussed and established life is much easier in my personal experience.

This approach has never failed me. I have often been described as effective and efficient, focused on delivery which is the way I like be described when people talk about me.

You can download a stakeholder and manager meetings Notion templates for FREE from my digital store with all other questions and agenda to discuss and track in one place.

→ Download/register on Notion website if you are new to it. It is free to start.

How do you work?

You can always book a call with me if you would like to discuss your work challenges and projects further.

Hope this helps

Best wishes


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