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10 great questions managers should be asking in 1:1s

Your people are the foundation of your company, right?

So, it makes sense then that the strength of those foundations should be a key focus for all managers. Building strong relationships with your team members is vital to leading a team that is primed for success.

1:1s are a great tool used by the best managers. Run on a frequent basis, they help get some vital face-to-face time (even if over Microsoft Teams) with employees to build relationships, strengthen trust and align priorities.

Research shows that 48% of managers in high-performance teams run 1:1 meetings every week. These sessions are used to provide direct support, guidance and build rapport.

They tend to be less performance focussed than say a quarterly or annual review. Instead, the key topics are around support, learnings, collaboration, and more social aspects of work.  Great 1:1s are run frequently (ideally weekly), focus on two-way feedback and are open and honest.

If you’re new to the world of 1:1s or want a health check on your current practices we’re here to help.

10 questions you should be asking in 1:1s

It might feel like it’s tricky to get started with 1:1s and keep a consistent cadence. But if you treat them like any other meeting, develop a plan and stick to it you’ll soon find 1:1s are nothing to fear.

Use these 10 questions as a great base for your next 1:1:

1.     How are you doing this week?

One aim with 1:1s is to build rapport. So don’t be afraid to kick off with something easy and personal. After all managers are meant to care about their team so show it with a simple check-in on how they are doing.

This also helps to gauge how an employee is feeling about the meeting – a positive or clear answer indicates they are looking forward to the chat, a sullen or short answer might suggest something is on their mind.

2.     Since we last met, what have you been enjoying or what are you most proud of?

This doesn’t need to stick to the boundaries of work. Employees should be encouraged to talk about achievements both in and out of work. This helps you understand where their passions lie and what other skills they may be able to bring to work.

3.     What support do you need from me this week?

Ease into the employee’s work-life with this olive branch question.

Have open communication about obstacles and roadblocks, letting employees know you’re here to help them get better at their jobs and advance their careers.

Whether it’s a helping hand, a new bit of kit or access to resources, your employees need to be able to ask for your help when they require it. Normalise that by asking them what they need in every 1:1.

4.     What is your top priority for next week?

Inquire about your employee’s plans for next week with regards to work. Align on key deliverables and ensure that priorities are set and correct. This gives you a key deliverable to ask about in your next meeting.

5.     Do you feel your current responsibilities and goals are fair and appropriate?

It’s all good and well setting goals in a quarterly or EOY review, but unless you review these regularly, they may well become redundant fast.

Managers should use 1:1s to review their team’s goals, workloads, and responsibilities to ensure burnout is kept at bay and motivation remains high.

You could also ask employees to rate their current level of job satisfaction using a simple 10-point scale. This helps give you a simple benchmark to measure changes against going forward.

6.     Is anything or anyone hindering your work in any way?

This helps paint a complete picture of what an employee might be going through in terms of challenges.

Knowing both personal and professional issues can help fully understand the problems an employee might be facing and gives you the opportunity to help fix them.

7.     What’s the one thing you would like to be doing more/less of?

Future-focussed questions like this help you plot an employee’s future development. You can craft their role around what they enjoy doing, offer training to support them and maybe even take elements they don’t like away.

Well managed job crafting like this helps key people be satisfied and engaged meaning they give you more and remain loyal.

8.     Do you believe you have a good work-life balance? If not, why do you think that is and what can we do to improve it?

This question provides insights into daily practices, and it shows whether the employees are underworked, overworked, or doing just fine.

It also provides insights into wellbeing, allowing you to use that information to provide a better work-life balance if needed.

9.     What feedback or suggestions do you have for me or the company?

Since the idea of a great 1:1 is to develop a two-way feedback channel, you should ask the employee for their feedback and suggestions.

You might receive some good, insightful information while also enabling your employees to feel empowered. If you act on one of their suggestions, be sure to let them know that they’ve had an impact – great for building engagement and reinforcing the benefits of feedback.

10.  Is there anything else you would like to discuss?

Concluding the meeting open-endedly is important because it allows for more discussion, which might even take place after the meeting. It’s also a good way of setting the following meeting’s agenda.

This is your employee’s opportunity to discuss anything and everything with you, so encourage them to use all the allotted time.

We've written a great guide on how to have better performance conversations with your people.

Fancy a free copy?