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Employee Performance Expert Reveals Two Questions Managers Should Ask Their Teams

January 09, 2024

  • Kolbe Wisdom
  • Teams

Great managers are always improving, and the path to elite performance starts with making sure your whole team is engaged. So, what can you do to get the most out of your team?  

For answers, let’s turn to Amy Bruske, President of Kolbe Corp. Bruske is a highly regarded employee performance expert with decades of experience solving people problems for small business and Fortune 500 companies alike. When it comes to improving employee engagement, she has identified two key questions leaders should be asking their team regularly: 

  1. How have you been able to use your strengths this week? 
  2. What is one task you either keep putting off or is causing you the most stress? 


The first thing you should understand is that there are three parts of the mind, and strengths can come from any of them. The three parts of the mind are:  

  • Cognitive (thinking) – This part of your mind defines your “intelligence.” It grows as you learn and is ever-changing. 
  • Affective (feeling) – A person’s affective strengths lie in their ability to use emotion effectively. 
  • Conative (doing) – Your conative mind contains the instincts and innate attributes that define your natural method of operation (MO). 


There are assessments out there that can help you identify the strengths of your team in all of these areas, but here we’ll focus on the one that is least represented and therefore is often the easiest solution to flagging employee engagement: conative strengths. 

Measuring your conative (or instinctive) strengths tells you how you naturally take action when  

        a) gathering and sharing information, 

        b) organizing and designing systems, 

        c) dealing with risk and uncertainty, and 

        d) handling space and tangibles.

These instinctive strengths can be measured through the Kolbe A™ Index, which will reveal a 4-number score that shows how you naturally execute when free to be yourself. 


“Better engagement comes from putting the right people in the right positions to let their natural strengths shine,” Bruske explains. “When you’re able to give everyone the freedom to be themselves, you’ll be amazed at how often that freedom leads them back to you.” 

QUESTION 1: How have you been able to use your strengths this week? 

By asking this question to your team members consistently, you’re showing them that you’re committed to them having that freedom to solve problems according to their strengths. This not only shows a vote of confidence in a team member’s way of doing things, it also frees them up to solve problems in ways that minimize their stress and maximize their productivity.  

Just as important, asking this question will help you spot when someone on your team is in a role where they’re almost never able to use their strengths. When tasks and strengths aren’t properly aligned, nobody wins.  

Imagine being someone who needs a lot of details to do your best work. But every time you’re assigned a task, you’re never given enough information. Would you still do a good job? Possibly. You may be very skilled and you may be very committed to your work. But over time, if you’re forced to work against your grain, you’re going to find your energy drained. Now imagine that your boss is aware of your strengths and regularly checks in to make sure you have the information you need. What a relief!  

One mistake too many leaders make is thinking others initiate action the same way they do. Just because you’ve had success solving problems a certain way, doesn’t mean that way works for everyone. For instance, an entrepreneur who has found success by creating shortcuts may look to hire others who operate the same way. But if they end up with a personal assistant whose strengths lie in making systems the boss won’t use, you may find a boss who is underwhelmed and an employee who is overwhelmed.  

Would you make your right-handed employees use their left hand for almost every task? Of course not!

So don’t put your employees in a position to constantly be working against their strengths. 

Instead, ask this question regularly and avoid a pitfall so many other organizations encounter. Find out how they naturally solve problems and execute on the job. Then, give them the freedom to do things their way. By acknowledging each other’s strengths and following up on their needs, you’ll both end up with a far more productive, sustainable working environment. 

QUESTION 2: What is one task you either keep putting off or is causing you the most stress? 

Sure, there may be some employees who are having a bad week at home, or it’s the Holidays and they’re checked out, or maybe they just don’t have the skills or knowledge to accomplish something.  

But you’d be surprised how often the reason something isn’t getting done right comes down to someone being asked to work outside of their instinctive strengths too often. We all have a finite amount of energy.  

“Research shows that if someone is working against what is natural for them,” Bruske continues, “it increases levels of stress. If left unmanaged, this will lead to burnout, and that is when they are going to quit your organization.” 

This includes the top performers on your team. These star employees generally don’t complain when stressed; they just work harder. But it is not sustainable over time. 

“You don’t want to wake up one day and all of a sudden, this superstar doesn’t want to be in this role anymore or quits your organization and you have no idea why,” warns Bruske.  

Even if you can’t completely remove a task from somebody’s to-do list, making it even 10% easier to accomplish or giving them the freedom to approach the task differently can drastically improve their performance and engagement.


Asking the smart questions to your team is just one step to being a strengths-based leader. There are many important steps you can take to improve collaboration, increase productivity, and reduce stress throughout your organization through instinctive strengths. 

The first step you should take is assessing yourself! Take this Strengths-Based Leadership Assessment to see how you stack up and what you can do to improve! 

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  • Kolbe Wisdom
  • Teams


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