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The Check Engine Light for Your Team Members


If you're a manager, you probably know the feeling of dread when one of your team members suddenly quits, or worse, gets fired. You wonder what went wrong, how you could have prevented it, and what you can do to avoid it in the future. You wish you had some kind of warning sign, some indicator that something was off, before it was too late.


Well, what if I told you that there is a way to get a check engine light for your team members? A way to monitor their performance, engagement, and satisfaction, and get alerted when they need your attention, support, or feedback. Think about it. A manager would be able to quickly see when something was off with an employee. Maybe they’re not meeting deadlines, or their work isn’t up to par.


With a check engine light, managers could quickly address the issue and get their employee back on track.


Plus, when employees know their manager is paying attention to their performance, they’ll feel valued and appreciated.


Sounds too good to be true, right?


But it's not. It's actually quite simple. And I'm going to tell you how to do it in this article.


But first, let me share a story with you. A few years ago, I lost one of my best recruiters because I ignored the signs that he was unhappy and disengaged. I thought he was just having a bad week, but he quit without any notice. I was shocked and (if truth be told) angry. And I realized that I had failed to be a good manager.


And I vowed to never let that happen again.


That's when I thought about creating a check engine light for my team members.

So what is a check engine light for your team members? It's a simple tool that helps you track and measure the key factors that affect your team's performance and well-being.

The check engine light model is based on the idea that every team member has four main needs: autonomy, mastery, purpose, and belonging.

When these needs are met, your team members are more likely to be motivated, productive, and happy. When they are not met, your team members are more likely to be frustrated, bored, and unhappy.


The check engine light for your team members consists of four questions that you ask them on a regular basis (at least once a month). These questions are:

  • How much autonomy do you feel in your work?

  • How much mastery do you feel in your work?

  • How much purpose do you feel in your work?

  • How much belonging do you feel in your work?

Do you have to explicitly ask the questions the way they’re worded above? Absolutely not! Good managers can naturally embed the thought behind the questions into their everyday conversation with their team members. You can ask these questions in person, via email, or using an online survey tool. The important thing is to make sure that your team members answer them honestly.


The check engine light for your team members works like this: if any of the questions below indicate a below average response, it means that there is a problem with that need. It means that your team member is not getting enough of that need from their work. It means that you need to take action to improve that need for them.


Here are some examples of actions you can take for each need:

  • Autonomy: Give them more freedom and flexibility in how they do their work. Delegate more tasks and decisions to them. Trust them more and micromanage them less.

  • Mastery: Give them more opportunities to learn and grow in their work. Provide them with more feedback and coaching. Challenge them more and support them more.

  • Purpose: Give them more clarity and direction in their work. Explain them the why behind their work. Show them how their work contributes to the bigger picture and makes a difference.

  • Belonging: Give them more recognition and appreciation in their work. Praise them more and thank them more. Create more opportunities for them to collaborate and socialize with their colleagues.

Recap: By using the check engine light for your team members, you will be able to identify and address the issues that affect your team's performance and well-being before they escalate into bigger problems. You will be able to prevent turnover, improve engagement, and boost productivity. You will be able to be a better manager.


The manager employee relationship is a critical relationship that helps determine business success. Managers need to be engaged with their employees to know when employees need help, ideally before the employee realizes it. So what are you waiting for? Start using the check engine light for your team members today! It will make managing your team much easier and more efficient.

And don’t worry, unlike your car’s check engine light, this one won’t cost you an arm and a leg to fix.

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