A one-on-one meeting between a manager and his/her team member can be one of the most valuable interactions an employee can have.
I use the phrase "can be" because one-on-one meetings too often degrade into boring, check-the-box, non-productive encounters. Scott Miller, author (with Todd Davis and Victoria Roos Olsson) of Everyone Deserves a Great Manager, agrees.
"Unfortunately," writes Miller, "one-on-one meetings often end up as rote meetings to check people's progress: 'What did you work on last week? What are you working on this week? Great. Next!'"
That's an ineffective role for managers, Miller writes. "If our main interaction with our team members is to check that they've hit key benchmarks, we become our team's monitor. You might get incremental improvements this way, but you're just as likely to deflate people's energy, zap their creativity, and drive them to do the minimum."
Instead, effective managers use one-on-one meetings to create the conditions for engagement.
How? By using questions to encourage your team member to do most of the talking (while you listen).
The key to the process is using open-ended questions that can't be answered with a simple yes or no. Such questions, writes Miller, help you facilitate a dialogue that creates learning and leads to meaningful solutions.
Miller's book provides a list--and I've curated 21 of the most insightful questions to use as a starting point. Miller's advice? "Any one of these questions can take up your whole meeting--and that's perfectly fine. Go with the flow and get the conversation started."
21 great questions to help you:
Get a pulse check
1. How are you feeling about your role?
2. What is favorite thing about your work right now?
3. How can I help you do more of that?
4. What is your least favorite thing--and how is that affecting your performance?
5. What areas of your job make you feel like you're stuck?
6. If you could work on anything next month, what would it be?
7. What would you like more feedback on?
Learn more about a project
8. What do you think I should know about the project but might not?
9. What aspect of this project has been particularly interesting?
10. What has caused you the most frustration?
11. What steps can I take to support your success on this project?
12. What is the biggest challenge you're facing right now?
13. What have you tried so far to address this issue?
14. What ideas can you bring in from past successes?
15. What haven't you attempted yet that you'd like to try?
16. Are there any obstacles to that approach I can help you with?
Support career development
17. What are some of the projects you're most proud of?
18. What are two or three skills that would help you be more successful?
19. What other roles/responsibilities would you like to explore?
Improve future meetings
20. What do you like about these one-on-one meetings?
21. What would you like to see us change about these discussions?