What is a 1-on-1 meeting?
According to, Elizabeth Grace Saunders, author & founder of Real Life E Time Coaching & Training,
One-on-ones are one of the most important productivity tools you have as a manager. They are where you can ask strategic questions such as, are we focused on the right things? And from a rapport point of view, they are how you show employees that you value them and care about them.
The foundation of a productive team depends upon the rapport and dynamics between its leaders and team members.
What is the purpose of one-on-one?
One-on-one meetings work as a cornerstone for both: an effective manager and an employee. Through these meetings, a manger can touch base with his/her team in a more personalized manner.
A one-on-one meeting is a recurring, open-ended, two-way interaction between a manager and her direct reports, where direct reports are free to speak their minds and open their heart with their manager
Through these meetings, a manger can touch base with his team in a personalized way.
They give a chance to the manager to understand their direct report’s strengths, weaknesses and potentials. Similarly, one-on-ones also create a safe psychological space for employees to discuss their individual career path, future plans and opinions with their manager.
One-on-ones are not your regular meetings, where you discuss a task and its scope – it’s a window, for both managers and employees, to nurture a talent and derive valuable insights from an experienced authority, respectively.
The basis of an effective one on one depends upon the quality of conversation which ensues in it.
Many organizations have adopted a system of weekly check-ins, stressing upon the importance of meaningful 1:1s.
However, they fail to see any difference in the attitude and bonding of the teams, primarily because the managers may be conducting these meetings wrongly!
The purpose of one-on-one meetings is to break the ice between a figure of authority and the team members.
It helps leaders understand the person behind a designation. This goes a long way in forming cohesive teams that work toward a common goal.
Why should you ask questions in your 1-on-1 meetings?
Asking the right questions before and during 1-on-1 meetings can help the manager and her direct reports set the right agenda and steer the meeting in the right directions.
One of the most common mistakes in one-on-one meetings is not asking the right questions, ether by the managers or the employees.
Its a rare opportunity to build a great relationship and resolve problems and the right questions play a critical role in it.
Questions act as navigators for one-on-one meetings, helping both managers and direct reports steer in the desired direction.
Also see: The most comprehensive list (550+) of one-on-one meeting questions template.
When direct reports answer questions like what is your motivation level, what were your achievements or challenges last week, etc. before the meeting, it helps the managers be prepared for the meeting, and also give the direct reports an equal opportunity to participate in setting the agenda.
Questions also help in exchanging feedback between both manager and direct reports.
Great managers go beyond the regular status updates, dig deeper to understand the employee better, and provide them the career development they are looking for.
If you are using a one-on-one meeting software to share your notes and agenda, you can add these questions in it before your meetings.
In order to make one on ones more productive, we have compiled a list of questions from the perspective of a manager and also the employee, that can get the conversation rolling. Let’s have a look.
Questions to ask the manager in your one-on-one meeting
If you’re a part of a team and have regular one-on-ones with your manager, this is for you.
Whether you are doing one-on-one meetings with remote teams or with the team that sits with you in your office, the effectiveness of it depends on the right questions that you and your team members ask.
For example, from an employee’s perspective, a one-on-one might just look like any other performance-related meeting.
But, if you ask the right questions, you can turn it around and make it more personalized.
A one-on-one meeting is not about discussing a project or a task; rather, it is an opportunity for you to share what’s on your mind with your manager.
This is your chance to let your leaders know your side of the story.
You can make him empathize with your problems and this will help in better performance of the tasks.
You have his time and attention; all you need to do is steer the conversation in a way that you get maximum takeaways and learning.
Never hesitate to strike a conversation about their life and experiences. The answers you get will help you understand your manager’s point of view better and you will be able to work with them effectively.
Ask them what their role entails and how you can help them in managing better.
Also, these questions will help you get an in-depth look into the practices that your manager follows in his career and how he reached where he is.
You will know what their career goals and objectives are.
This way, you will be able to learn from them and know what they expect from your role in the company.
To make this a simple exercise for you, we have made a list of questions that can help you have an impactful one-on-one.
To know more about your manager:
- What is the most important achievement that you hope to accomplish someday in your career and current role?
- What are your goals for your career? How do you plan on achieving them?
- How do you feel when an employee gives you feedback? Can I do the same?
- What do you think is okay for me to expect from you?
To know about your manager’s role in the company:
- What does your boss expect from you?
- Can you tell me more about your work and management style?
To receive and give feedback:
- Is there anything that I should do differently? How do I do that?
- What is the reason for hiring me? Am I living up to your expectations?
- What is the one thing that I should stop doing at work?
- Would you like to change anything in my position in the company? If yes, why?
- What are the fair expectations for you to have from me?
- How do you think I handled the x project? Could I have resolved it better?
- Is there anything that I can do to make our team more successful?
Also read:- How to give feedback during one-on-one meetings?
To perform better for the company:
- Whom do you consider to be the team’s best performers? Is there anything I can do to emulate them?
- How do you want me to update on the tasks or feedback?
To build a relationship with your manager:
- Do you want to know something about my position in the company?
- How did you decide on the target outcome for the x project?
- What can we do to make our team perform best in the company?
- What do I do that work the most for the company? Can I do it more?
Questions to ask the employee in your one-to-one meeting
What makes leaders stand apart from managers is their ability to inculcate faith in their employees.
The best way to earn a team’s trust is by letting them know that you care. If the conversation begins with a work-related topic, it sets the entire tone to be strictly professional.
The key is to ease them into the discussion. Start by building trust by asking them about their personal life. Don’t just look interested, be genuinely enthusiastic about their response.
Talk to them about their personal journey and growth plans. This can help you learn more about their skills and how they can be incorporated into your plans.
To make things simpler for you, we have compiled a list of a few questions you can pose to your team members.
To build trust with the employee:
- What keeps you busy besides work? What are your other passions?
- How do you think your life and work are balanced?
- What do you do for fun? What are your hobbies?
- What drives you and motivates you to get up for work every day?
To talk about career development:
- What is that you do here makes you feel is in line with your long term goals?
- Who do you admire and why?
- What are your skills and what are the skills that you want to work upon??
- Is there any role in the company that you want to know about?
To progress in their growth and career development:
- What do you think we can do to help you move forward with your long term goals?
- Do you like the pace in which you’re growing? If not, where can we help?
- Is there any training you would like to attend to develop your skills?
- Who in this company do you admire? Which quality of their do you find most impressive?
To give and receive feedback:
- How do you think you should receive the feedback?
- Do you feel like you’re getting enough feedback for your efforts?
- Is there anything in work that you still want some guidance upon?
- How much time do you think you feel productive in a day? Is there anything we can do to help you make more productive?
To improve your team:
- Do you think the company needs to improve something to compete better in the market?
- What do you like the most about the work culture in the company?
- What offer can convince you to work somewhere else?
- Do we need to improve something about the team meeting? Why?
If Managing Remote Teams:
- What’s the biggest challenge you face while working remote?
- What are you doing to keep up your motivation while working remotely?
- I’ve struggled to unplug from work since we are now remote, how are you managing it??
- Is there anything I can do to help you be more productive at this time?
This was a list of a few questions that can help managers and employees do their best in 1:1 meetings.
Managers will get to know more about their employees and focus more on the team’s performance.
Also, by building trust with their employees, they will be able to satisfy their individual expectations. Knowing what the employees aim for in the long run, a manager can help them achieve their goals.
For employees, these questions will help them receive feedback and gradually improve . Employees will be able to build a sense of trust and relationship with the manager.
Knowing what your managers aspire from their career, will help you in setting your own goals and objectives.
Do you have any more ideas on what questions can be asked in a one-on-one? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to become a better manager?
Start with great 1-on-1s to build high performing teams.