The Key Question to Ask During One-​on-​One Meetings

BY Kathy Crosett
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If you’re new to management, or you suspect your management style might need a reboot, you might want to work on your one-​on-​one meetings. You and your team
members are working toward a common goal, and one way to track progress is to regularly talk with each person individually. One-​on-​one meetings can be productive for everyone involved, if you deliberately plan the questions you’ll ask during the meeting.

Alyse Kalish recently posted an article on themuse​.com about questions to pose during one-​on-​one meetings. The basis for her article was a Twitter feed started by a Slack engineer who hopes to move into management eventually. Several managers responded with the questions they considered key during these meetings.

Before deciding on the types of questions to ask your team members, think about what you want to achieve and why. Regularly touching base with each team member is a way for you to show support. Many managers assume a weekly meeting is necessary, because that’s the way it’s always been done. Managers may also assume a meeting needs to stretch for an hour because that’s the amount of time they have blocked off. Don’t fall into this trap. Chewing up time in meetings slows down work progress for everyone. Do schedule meetings as needed, especially when you suspect a team member needs your help. Make sure to cover the agenda items you feel are important, solicit input from your team member, and then wrap up the meeting when you sense she doesn’t have anything else to talk about.

Inexperienced managers may assume they need to track people’s progress on specific tasks by asking how much has been done on a white paper, for example. This approach makes an employee feel like she’s back in school with a teacher hovering over her. Don’t go there unless your team member has a track record of falling behind.

Start the reboot of your one-​on-​one meetings by asking employees how much direction and interaction they want in general. If you’re a new and younger manager assigned to watch over a very senior team, you may not have to provide much guidance. These folks likely know how to do their jobs. You’ll still need to build a relationship with them, though. In these cases, you might want to follow the examples of Barry Shawgo and Stacey Sedbrook, Vice President of Sales and Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at SalesFuel, respectively. These managers ask their direct reports what they need in order to succeed each week. After getting this information from their team members, Shawgo and Sedbrook secure the support each person on their team has requested.

If your team is under a deadline and several people must work together to deliver their pieces of a huge project, you might need to ask how far along each person is. Asking the right type of questions can help people instead of making them feel pressured. Julie Clark, Vice President of Operations at SalesFuel, asks her direct reports where they are stuck on specific projects and then works with them to find solutions. This management style allows everyone to reach the common goal while building rapport.

As the new year approaches, think about how your one-​on-​one meetings are working for you and your team members. January might be the perfect time to make a few changes.