Twenty-one Questions for Great One-on-One Meetings.

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If you believe, as we do, that one-on-one meetings are still the best way to build strong working relationships with everyone on your team, you’ll want to make them a priority. Of course, when you’re distracted or struggling to shift focus from other responsibilities, it can be a challenge to get the conversation started.

Photo by Sonny Abesamis, Flickr

Socates said "“My way toward the truth is to ask the right questions.” Confuscious clearly believed in the power of good questions too, having written: “The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life.”

Make sure you’re ready to initiate dialogue during your one-on-one meetings with one or more of these useful seed questions.

  1. Tell me about what you’ve been working on?
  2. How we can be better making use of your time or attention?
  3. What questions do you have about this project?
  4. Tell me about your week – what’s it been like?
  5.  Where do you think I can be most helpful?
  6. Tell me about your family/weekend/ activities?
  7.  How are you going to approach this?
  8. Tell me about anything you stumbled over.
  9. What are your thoughts on my/our changes?
  10. Would you update me on Project X?
  11. What do you think about it?
  12. Are you on track to meet the deadline?
  13. How do you think we can do this better?
  14. What areas are ahead of schedule?
  15. What are your future goals in this area?
  16. What areas of your work are you confident about?
  17. What are your plans to get there?
  18. What worries you?
  19. What can you/we do differently next time?
  20. What suggestions do you have?
  21. Tell me about what you’ve learned on this project?

As described in our earlier post “One-on-Ones: Making them Work,” once you get the conversational ball rolling, let things flow naturally according to what’s on your team member’s mind.  If you’d like to learn more about One-on-Ones and why they are important to individuals and organizations, here are some great reads.


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One-on-Ones: Making them Work

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3 Things HR Can Learn from Great Customer Service

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More than anything else, great customer service is about respect: respect for the customer as an individual,  respect for the customer’s time and respect for the customer’s point of view—even when it seems off base. It’s Not About You Variations of the statement: “Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” have been attributed to Theodore Roosevelt and John C. Maxwell, among others. This phrase has been used time and again to illustrate a fundamental principle in leadership, sales, and customer service. The same …

Forging Alliances between Employees and Employers

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The fundamentals of the employee-employer relationship have changed over the past few decades. Employers no longer even pretend to offer job security and, in return, employee loyalty to a particular company is rare. Yet employees still want to know where they stand and what their long term prospects are within the organizations they work for. And employers still want to reduce employee churn and find ways to retain great employees as long as possible. The question is: How can we do that in today’s competitive, volatile, shifting world? The Alliance: managing talent in the networked age Authors Reid …

The Remote Workforce is Less Remote

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Mobile Worker by Michael Coghlan, Flickr As technology has taken hold in our workplaces and more jobs consist of knowledge work that can be done anywhere with an internet connection, reducing the physical plant requirements of business has been a logical progression. If an employee can effectively and productively work from home, why add unnecessary real estate costs to the company’s overhead—especially since control and flexibility increase workers’ job satisfaction and eliminating the commute reduces their stress. Not at Work: Not Absent In spite of occasional setbacks (like Marissa Mayers’ infamous memo), the entrenchment …

Running Effective Meetings

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Many people are hired, promoted, or elected into leadership positions without receiving any formal training or education on how to run an effective meeting. But the higher you go in an organization the more meetings you are responsible for!  Photo by Anneaux Memoire, Wikimedia Commons, GNU Free Documentation License There are a lot of good reasons for meetings, including providing an opportunity to: Share ideas, information and preferences. Participate in the decision-making process and provide input into decisions. Be identified as able and willing to “champion” initiatives once decisions are made. Come together as part of a …

Growing Pains – HR Challenges in High Growth Companies

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Whether you call it HRM, HCM or simply the people side of work, Human Resources is a challenge in the best of times. Overlay its inherent complexity with a year-over-year growth rate of 30-50% or more and suddenly you’re juggling madly—with knives! Balboa Park Botanical Building, by Herb Neufeld, Wikimedia Commmons Whether rapid growth is happening in a small start-up that suddenly gains traction, or in a more established company that’s growing due to acquisition and globalization, there are some common challenges each will face as a result of unbridled success. HR Challenges in …

Learning From Failure

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Not a Mistake The problem with the word mistake is that it comes packaged with a weight of condemnation and is usually accompanied by shame, disappointment and sometimes even the fear that someone may stop liking us. But we need our mistakes. Without them we can’t learn or grow or change. If, instead, we think about mistakes as feedback in a loop of continuous experimentation and improvement, we can appreciate them as positive input into our development rather than weapons of self-destruction.  Flickr/StormKatt Learning from Failure There is a lot of talk lately about learning from …

Making Change Stick

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One of the greatest challenges inherent in any change initiative is making sure that new behaviors stick. It is easy fall back into old familiar habits once management focus shifts away from the change initiative and on to other things. What is not as clear is why, after weeks, or even months, of doing things differently, these newly established patterns can be knocked off track allowing old habits resurface. It Takes Time to Replace Old Behaviors They say it takes about 21 consecutive days to form a new habit. But it takes only a moment to break a new habit and …

Providing Context in a Changing Workplace

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Recently, I watched a man using the self-check-out line at the grocery store for the first time. After a few attempts, he managed to scan his first item. With the can of soup in his hand, he immediately tried to scan another item. The machine wouldn’t work and told him to get help from an attendant. His frustration mounted. The attendant arrived and told him to put the first item in the bag before scanning the second item. So he put the soup in a bag and put the bag in his cart, then moved back to scan …

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