How To Ask The Right Questions In Your One-on-Ones

BY Kathy Crosett
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Regular one-​on-​one meetings can be a valuable experience for managers and employees. These meetings should involve more than an information exchange. But, all too often, the results of your one-​on-​one meetings fall far short of what you and your team member could be accomplishing.  Did you know that only 35% of employees believe their managers are truly prepared for these meetings? Survey results reported by Claire Lew at KnowYourCompany​.com also indicate that 15% of employees believe their managers put in little or no prep time for their one-​on-​ones. Ouch. Here’s what you can do to fix that. 

Employee State of Mind

For too many managers, the one-​on-​one meeting is an opportunity to talk about themselves. Other managers are tempted to take charge of the meeting and start issuing orders. Resist this temptation.  One major goal of your regular meetings with your team members is to find out how they are doing. Is your employee upset about something that’s happening in the office? Are they expressing interest in doing something new? Maybe they wished they’d handled an incident that turned into an argument differently. If you don’t ask these questions and listen for your employees’ answers, you could be missing important clues about how they’re feeling. You could also completely fail to notice an office issue that you need to take action on. 

Work Status

If you suspect that your employee isn’t thrilled about a particular project, you may need to ask probing questions. They won’t always tell you exactly what they’re thinking, because they don’t want to upset you. Or, they might worry that you won’t assign them another challenging project.  Lew suggests asking a question like, “Is anything holding you back from doing the best work you can do right now?” This kind of question allows the employee to give you a specific answer. If they are being held up because of an issue with another department, you can coach them on how to get what they need. Don’t offer to run interference for them. Encourage them to solve the problem on their own. That strategy allows them to develop self confidence and to raise their profile with employees in other departments.  Lew covers several other ways to get more value out of your weekly one-​on-​one meetings. The common thread is all to make sure the focus is on your employee, their goals and their objectives.