Next time you’re tempted to make a speech at your foremen’s meeting, ask them a question first.  It gets your audience engaged, personalizes the topic and makes it more likely your message will land. With a little practice you can come up with good, open-ended, authentic questions about any topic.  Here are some to get you started. Questions about keeping people safe
  • Have you ever had someone on your crew who was seriously injured? What happened?  What lesson did you learn from that experience?
  • Think of the person on your crew who is most likely to get hurt. Think of the person on your crew who is least likely to get hurt.  What’s the difference?
  • What’s a piece of equipment or process that your crew uses, but you don’t understand very well. What’s something you could do to learn how to do that work safely?
  • Who on your crew has the biggest influence on how other people think, talk and act when it comes to safety? What’s something you can do to engage that person more?
  • Is there someone on your crew who shouldn’t be working here because the pose too much of a danger to themselves or others? What’s stopping you from removing that person?
Questions about on-boarding new workers
  • What’s your process for on-boarding a new employee? What questions do you ask them, and what key points do you make?
  • How do you ‘size-up’ new workers and figure out who can do what? What’s the ‘trick’ that new foremen need to learn?
  • How well do the people on your crew know one another? What could you do to make sure that each person knows everyone’s name and is comfortable asking for help?
  • How long before you can tell if a new person is going to cut it or not? Does your company have a ‘probationary’ or ‘try-out’ period?  Do you use that process?
Questions about enforcing rules and discipline
  • What’s the ‘keystone’ rule around here – the one rule that if we get everyone to follow it all the time, would make everything else go better?
  • What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about enforcing rules or writing people up? What’s still difficult for you?
  • Talk about a time when you didn’t enforce a rule – you let it slide – and it came back to bite you later.
  • Is there someone on your crew who you should be writing up but you’re not? What help do you need in order to be stronger with that person?
Questions about teaching and mentoring workers
  • What’s a task your crew does, but you’re not very good at it. Who could help you train your people to do that work?
  • If your kid were coming to work here, who would you want mentor them? Why?
  • When you were an apprentice, how did you like to learn new skills? Do you teach people the same way?
  • What’s a task around here that we need more people to learn how to do well? The task where we usually have to wait certain folks to be free – what would it take to get more people trained up on that?
Questions about administrative processes and paperwork
  • Think of the ‘paperwork’ you have to do in your job. Which form or process do you make sure you do right and on time, every time?  Which do you ‘pencil whip’?  What’s the difference?
  • If you were in charge of rolling out a new process – a new form or permit people had to complete, how would you do it? How would you make sure everyone did it right?
  • Is there a certain form or paper work you find difficult to complete? Who around here could help you get up to speed on that process?
  • What’s a paperwork process you could delegate to your lead hand, or someone on your crew who wants to be a foremen? Which process will you neverdelegate?
Questions about setting an example
  • Who was the best foreman you ever knew? What made them different?  What did you learn from them?
  • Who has the best start-of-shift meetings or huddles around here? What do they do differently?
  • Regarding [insert a recurring issue], what can you or I do to set an example? How could we, through our actions, show people what’s expected around here?
  • What’s the time of day when you have to be ‘on your game’ – when you have to be visible to your crew, setting the pace or mood? What do you do during these times?
Interested in learning more?  Ready to get your foremen talking (and thinking)?  We’re ready to help.  About the author: Andy Erickson is a founder and principal consultant at Humanus Solutions, a consulting firm specializing in people-centric leadership. He can be reached at