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What are you most excited about? A Question Guide

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What are you most excited about?Child splashing in a puddle
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This is a question guide to asking “what are you most excited about?” in 1–1 meetings between a manager and an employee. The best way to get better at asking a question is to practice and ask it a lot. This guide will help you prepare and give you some ideas on how to execute this question.

Why ask it?

As managers and organizations what do we want from our employees? A lot! But at some level we want results and high performance. There are multiple ways to try to get this, and one of the best (and most enjoyable) is having highly engaged employees working on things they love. We want them to be intrinsically motivated.

To do this you need to both find out what people find engaging, and engage them in their current work. 

At face value this question is all about finding out what they’re excited about. But it can be more subtle than that. 

Here are some things this question may help you find out:

  • Upcoming work, events, or challenges that they’re excited about.
  • Things outside of work that they’re excited about. 
  • A lack of things that they’re excited about at work and/or outside. 
  • Things at work or outside of it that they would be excited to do. 

Here are some things the question may accomplish:

  • Allow them to reflect on what they like and want to do.
  • Greater appreciation and clarity on exciting work on their plate.
  • Help you decide what project or task to assign them next.
  • Help you better understand what motivates them.
  • Initiate an interesting career conversation.

When to ask it?

You can ask this question anytime, though it naturally works well with any type of transition (new year, new project, new role, etc.)


Here are some alternative ways to ask the question that you can experiment with. For better results try to use an open-ended question (usually one that starts with what or how). For example try to avoid something a close-ended question like “are you excited about this project?”.


  • What upcoming work are you most excited about?
  • What are you most excited about in {year X}?
  • What’s the challenge that you’re most excited about in the coming months?


  • What’s the best day you’ve had at work lately? What did you do?
  • What’s the recent project you’ve enjoyed working on the most? What did you like about it?

What answers to prepare for and options to respond

These are just a few examples of possible answers and responses. Being prepared for a few of them should lead to better conversations. 

Answer #1

I’m excited about project X that I’ll be working on soon.

Possible responses

Great! Your employee has an upcoming project that they’re excited about. Don’t stop there. What about that project is exciting to them? Does their body language match the excitement in their words? What actions can you and them take to make it even more exciting and/or find more similar work that they would be excited about? As always we want to gather information and then turn it into action that will add value to the organization and the employee. 

Here are a few possible follow-ups:

  • That’s great! What about that project is exciting to you?
  • Can you tell me more about that?
  • I’m glad you’re excited about that project. I think project Y and Z are similar for these reasons. 
  • That’s great. This project is important for reasons A, B, C and will have impact Y and Z which I know is important to you and is also important to the company. 
  • I hear you say you’re excited but it doesn’t seem like you’re that excited. Am I misreading it?

Answer # 2

I’m really excited about {something outside of work that seems totally unrelated}!

Possible Responses

While we want to focus mostly on work you should be happy to hear this answer. This is an opportunity to get to know them better and see if there are things at work that would be equally exciting to them. This conversation could remain purely informational and focused on building rapport and connection or it could turn into a long or short term career planning conversation.

Here are a few possible follow-ups:

  • Tell me more!
  • What about that is exciting to you?
  • How could we structure your work to provide similar excitement?
  • What could I or the company do to support this interest?
  • Here are some aspects of project X (or role X) that have some similarities to that.
  • I’m excited about that too!

Answer # 3

I don’t know, I haven’t really thought about it. 

Possible Responses

This is perhaps the most common answer you will get, especially if they haven’t had a chance to prepare. Do not bail on the question at the first sign of resistance! This is just the beginning of the conversation. Your challenge now is to be genuinely curious and use listening skills to go from an initial empty answer to a productive conversation.

Here are a few possible ways to respond:

  • Silence. Resist the temptation to fill the space. Give them that space and your attention. Good chance they start to fill the space and your task is to encourage them to do so.
  • “Haven’t thought about it?”. This is called a mirror and just repeating the last 1-3 words of what they said as a question can often get them to say more.
  • Some form of “Can you try?”, “That’s normal, is there anything you can think of?”, or “Give it a shot”. You don’t want to be pushy but you want to make it clear that you’re really curious and you’re not letting them off the hook.
  • Try an alternative. Picture a door with a key. Assume there’s a treasure behind that door. The key you just tried didn’t work, it’s time to try a different key. Try using some of the alternatives above, try different angles or frames of references to see if one of them works better.
  • Tell them your motivation for asking. The question might seem out of the blue or there may be a trust issue. Be transparent about why you’re asking and what you’re hoping to do with the information.
  • Share something that you’re excited about. Surprisingly, sometimes the best way to get people to open up is for you to open up first.

You may find that you try all of these and still don’t get anywhere. All is not lost. This is an ongoing relationship and there’s value in asking questions that show you’re interested in them. Building trust takes time so keep at it.

Answer #4

Honestly, there’s nothing at work that seems that exciting to me. 

Possible Responses

This is not what you were hoping for. Yet if true this is great information to have! It’s much better to get this information early on then when they tell you they’re quitting. You may not be able to make work exciting for them but at least you have a chance. Time to roll up your sleeves and gather more information. What would be exciting to them? What has been exciting to them in the past? You can pull for information and also push information about different aspects of their work that they may not be considering.

Here are a few possible responses:

  • Tell me more, what about the work is not exciting to you?
  • I’m sorry to hear that. Are there any projects in the past that you were excited about? What about them was exciting?
  • “It seems like you aren’t thrilled with the work you’ve been doing”. This is sometimes called a label and it’s a great way to get them to elaborate.
  • Project X, Y, and Z are coming up. Would any of them be exciting to you? Why or why not?
  • Is there anything outside of work that you’re excited about?
  • That’s not great. Let’s see what we can do. What are you interested in learning? Or what’s important to you?

Action items

Having a great conversation is valuable in and of itself. To take it further you want your conversations and meetings to lead to actions that add value to the company and the employee. You’ve hopefully just learned something about what makes work exciting to them, what is the next step you can take to increase or at least maintain their level of excitement?

  • Is there a project/task that you can assign to them that would be exciting?
  • Is there training you could suggest or enroll them in?
  • Is there someone in or out of the office that you could introduce them to?
  • Is there some way you can re-structure their work and/or schedule to allow them to pursue some activity that’s exciting to them?
  • Is there someone you can talk to that will help you find opportunities for them at work?
  • Is there a project/task that isn’t allocated yet that you can advocate for?


This is a good question. Results will vary but play around and experiment and you should generate some useful conversations. The better you get at asking it the better the results will be!

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