The One Coaching Question To Ask If Your Team Member Looks Uncomfortable

This simple one-liner will lead to deeper connections with your team members.

Coaching team, one member looks uncomfortable Jacob Lund | Canva

Have you ever been in one of those team meetings where the vibe just feels… off? You glance around the room and spot that one team member. Their discomfort is so palpable you could cut it with the blunt end of a butter knife. Maybe they look like they’d rather be having a tooth pulled than be in your meeting. Sound familiar? We’ve all been there. Over the years, in various radio station jobs, I seem to have become adept at spotting these moments. Most managers either ignore them or have no radar at all.


So let’s imagine this: You’re knee-deep in discussing the latest project, and you notice Jim isn’t his usual self. Perhaps he’s slouched so far down in his chair that you’re half-expecting him to merge with the fabric. Or maybe Sarah is fidgeting so much you’re worried she’s going to launch into orbit. It’s distracting and, let’s face it, a tad concerning. Your gut says something ain’t right… Yes, you’re gut not you’re head or heart. 

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I’ll let you in on the coaching question that could unravel the mystery behind those squirmy seats. No, it’s not “Did someone spike the watercooler?” or “Am I wearing my shirt inside out again?” It’s simpler and yet, far more profound:


“Hey, [name], you seem a bit off today. What’s on your mind?”

Boom. That’s it. Believe it or not, this one-liner opens up a can of trust worms that can lead to deeper connections with your team members.

boss talking to employee fizkes / Shutterstock

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So, imagine this — I once had a radio presenter, let’s call him Zack. Zack was the kind of guy who could sell ice to Antarctic penguins. But during one meeting, he was quieter than a mime at a library. I popped the question, and turns out Zack was freaking out about presenting to clients. After all, he was an introverted radio jock, not a sales professional. We tackled it with a practice run and some pointers. By the time the big day came, Zack was smoother than a jazz radio host at midnight.

Or take Angela. She was typing so aggressively that I suspected her keyboard owed her money. When I asked her what was up, she revealed that she was concerned about presenting for the first time to an ad agency in London. After a quick chat, we used some basic N.L.P confidence and role-play techniques. Suddenly, her keyboard lived to see another day.

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But there’s a risk… This question is cool because it’s chill but still gets to the bottom of what’s bothering your team. It’s like gently tapping on their mind’s door. You give them the chance to welcome you in. It’s better than busting in with a loud “What’s up?” Ouch, don’t do that. Now, here’s where some of you might get uncomfortable yourselves.

There’s a risk involved because you’ve got to be prepared for what might come out of Pandora’s Box. But, if you can’t pinpoint the ‘whys’ of the restless leg syndrome outbreak in your team, you can’t fix the root causes.

Next time you see a team member looking lost as if they are calculating how to escape, ask a short question. Make sure you do it with the empathy of a teddy bear and the curiosity of a cat (minus the whole ‘killing with kindness’ bit). Be ready to listen, truly listen. Listen with your ears. Also, with your eyes. Most importantly, with your full attention… You got this.

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Phil Roberts is the author of The Imposter Syndrome On Audible and Radio Presenter at Cheshire's Mix 56 who offers career and social advice.