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What Do Great Leaders Discuss With Their Employees? Research shows a great return on the time spent by bosses talking directly with their staffers. Here are four conversations you could have.

By Mark Murphy

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Business owners often talk about the need to properly manage their employees -- but rarely understand the specific efforts -- and time commitment -- needed to achieve optimal results. This is especially the case for emerging businesses and startups.

My organization, Leadership IQ, recently surveyed more than 32,000 people in the United States and Canada and discovered that most people spend about three hours per week (or less) interacting with their boss.

While that may seem like a lot of time, to shape a team that is optimally motivated, engaged, inspired and innovative, leaders should spend about six hours a week interacting with their employees. In fact, employees who spend six hours talking with their boss are 29 percent more inspired and 30 percent more engaged and 16 percent more innovative than those who only spend one hour per week interacting with their leader.

Related: 3 Meetings Every Business Should Have

So leaders need to spend more time interacting with their employees. But how should they fill that time? Assuming that creepily lurking over employees' shoulders and pointing out their mistakes isn't a great way to fill those extra hours, I recommend that supervisors instead engage them in conversation.

Bosses should learn about their staff, discuss their goals and solicit their great ideas. It's amazing to see how much more motivated, engaged, inspired and innovative they'll become.

Try these four simple conversations with employees:

Related: 6 Easy Ways to Make Meetings Fun -- Or At Least, Not Suck

1. Conduct 10 minute, monthly "shoves and tugs" conversations. These interactions should tap into employees' intrinsic motivators ("tugs") and demotivators ("shoves"). Start by asking, "Tell me about a time in the past month when you felt motivated?" Then ask, "Tell me about a time in the past month when you felt demotivated?"

Phrase questions in a way that feels natural. At first, the responses may sound a bit superficial. Be persistent. It takes time to build trust and connection. And take fast action when employees do share their true feelings, even if it's just to say, "I'm sorry, there's nothing I can do right now."

2. Learn about employees' growth goals. Ask, "What's something you'd like to get better at next month?" Employees who feel like they're learning are significantly more engaged than those who feel stagnant in their work.

And do keep millennial employees learning. Keep tabs on staffers' growth goals and provide support where possible. It will keep them engaged. And who doesn't want a workforce that's constantly improving its capabilities?

Related: Stop Delaying: 3 Surefire Ways to Do Employee Reviews Properly

3. Discover the barriers frustrating staffers. Query them, "What roadblocks or breakdowns have frustrated you this month?" The legendary Jack Welch used to say, "The people closest to the work know it better than their bosses."

There's no better group to ask for ideas for improving the company's operations than employees. They'll give fantastic improvement ideas, and the more operations improve, the better (and less frustrating) their life becomes. Plus the more a boss listens to staffers, the more engaged they'll become.

4. Find opportunities to positively reinforce employees. Inquire, "What were your proudest moments this past month?" Learning what employees consider their proudest moments or accomplishments ensures that the manager never looks out-of-touch by forgetting to recognize their major successes. And few things kill employee engagement more than a boss who misses or ignores great accomplishments.

Not only does this force a leader to recognize the team's achievements, but it also pinpoints the folks that aren't performing. When an employee says, "My proudest moment this month was making it to work on time," this is critical performance-management data.

Employees who interact with a boss about six hours a week are significantly more motivated, engaged, inspired and innovative. But it's important to fill that time with real value. Such conversations will not only increase the interaction time, but will also help the leader gain invaluable information on the workplace and boost the company's performance.

Related: Join the League of Extraordinary Bosses: 4 Habits to Cultivate

Mark Murphy

Founder and CEO of Leadership IQ

Mark Murphy is founder and CEO of Atlanta-based Leadership IQ, a research and training firm that creates employee-engagement surveys and studies and conducts leadership training. He is the author of Hundred Percenters, Hiring for Attitude and HARD Goals.

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