If you currently work or have worked in a startup before, you know that this is a very KPI-driven and goal-oriented culture. Employees are focused on launching as many products or services in the least amount of time. This leaves almost no room for practices like one-on-one meetings with employees. Even in well-established companies with larger teams, one-on-one meetings might not be a priority. So should managers create a routine of 1:1 meetings with their team members?
Why are one-on-one meetings important?
Some managers might find regular one-on-one time-consuming and unnecessary, but well-planned and executed one-on-one meetings are incredibly beneficial for employees and managers. 72% of managers find 1:1 meetings important to manage the performance of their teams.
However, you might be mistaken in thinking that these meetings are only to evaluate your team's progress, quite the opposite. One-on-one meetings are a two steps process with several benefits. First, it allows employees to solve specific questions, set key priorities, and give feedback. Second, managers should help employees identify action items and take action! 1:1 meetings are not a therapy session but rather a space to focus on a single employee and help them progress with their projects and within the company. This means that managers should be proactive in generating solutions, even if these take time.
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Here are some common benefits of hosting one-on-one meetings:
- It creates bonds between managers and workers
- It boots employees’ well-being.
- It helps managers to use their coaching and managing skills.
- It’s an opportunity to show workers the company culture and mission.
How often should you have one-on-one meetings?
How much is too much? Zoom Fatigue does exist! So how would you approach one-on-one meetings in an effective way?
A study shows that ideally, managers should have 30-minutes weekly meetings with their team members. This makes up for roughly 2.5 hours a month per employee. What can you talk about for almost 3 hours a month with your team?
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10 one-on-one meeting questions for successful managers
Growth and development one-on-one meeting questions
What projects have you enjoyed working on recently?
This question is useful when trying to figure out your employee’s strengths. In many cases, people are given tasks they’ve never done before and it turns out to be a delight and even maybe the next step in their career. People won’t always “do what they love” but the goal is to direct them in that direction. For example, Your team member works in the marketing department, but he really enjoys developing new features. You could add him to some product meetings and set some of his time to help Product develop new features, without leaving aside his main responsibilities.
What’s the next step in your career and how can we help you get there?
Wouldn't it be great to keep employees long-term? Building a career is a perk that many companies proudly advertise and not many actually apply. Asking employees what is the next step in their career is the first step. They might not have a clear answer in many cases, but it’s your job as a successful manager to guide them through the process.
Is there anything that’s frustrating you right now?
Remote settings leave room for communication breakdowns which leads to confusion and lack of direction. This is your opportunity to align with your team and find out what gaps the workflow has. Also, frustration is not always a bad thing, but a door to improvement.
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Performance one-on-one meeting questions
How did your previous goals go?
This one-on-one meeting question is probably one of the most important ones, as this could avoid mistakes from happening over and over. In startups, for example, a popular say is Always Be Launching, as the more features you offer to customers, the more engaged and willing to recommend your business they could be. This leaves no time for retrospectives. If you are always launching, when do you sit down and reevaluate what went wrong? So make sure to ask these questions in your 1:1 meeting and implement them in your next iteration.
What are your goals right now and how did you set them?
Managers want to give their employees the freedom to determine what are the goals based on the company’s KPIs. If the main company goal is increasing sales, then each department should be able to set goals for revenue growth. Now, it’s a matter of checking whether these goals are indeed for revenue growth or whether employees might be focusing elsewhere.
Do you see how your goals align with the bigger picture or the team’s goals?
This is a follow-up one-on-one meeting question to the one above. Let’s call it a step further. As the manager, it’s easy enough to understand the company’s main KPIs and align the team accordingly. But this might not be the case for your employees. The question above works as an alignment question in order to en ensure the success of the team. But this question is a reflection of great management skills. You want to show people how to self-align with the company’s KPIs so that they can align with others.
Is there anything unclear to you?
You might be surprised by the number of times people agree to avoid looking silly. Being able to accept your mistakes and ask for further explanation is a skill not many enjoy. Be proactive in asking whether there's anything unclear and set a clear and respectful communication practice with your employees.
Employee engagement one-on-one meeting questions
Is there anything pressing you would like to discuss today?
In many cases, managers drive the conversation by asking some of the questions from this article. But sometimes, workers have specific items that urge to be solved, like a personal problem or a situation with a colleague. If you have pending items with this employee, starting with this question is a great strategy.
What keeps you inspired and motivated at work?
This might sound cheesy, but motivation is a key factor for many employees, if not the only factor for millennial workers. Keeping your employees motivated isn’t exclusively your responsibility, but you can help to find what really motivates them to give the extra mile. If there’s nothing, there are a few things you could evaluate to change this, like team structure, work conditions, collaboration, and the employee’s alignment with the company.
Do you feel comfortable giving feedback to your teammates?
This is actually a popular question among recruiters. How do you give feedback to your team? The reason is that it’s not easy to give feedback effectively! It takes time and experience. The good news is that you can train yourself and practice. Practice makes perfect, or so they say. The problem is that not everyone enjoys practicing giving feedback, as it might not land well.
For those employees who struggle to give feedback efficiently, walk them through your own experience, tell them how you struggled too, and encourage them to do it more often.
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