The following paragraphs are some passages from The Making of a Manager that were valuable to me. I’ve paraphrased them here for my own reference.
I have found that having good 1-1s is important to build a good relationship between a manager and their team. However, it is very easy to get sucked into having 1-1s where you only focus on the immediate priorities. The steps listed below are useful for putting priorities in perspective and taking a step back to look at overall goals and expectations of both people.
How can you achieve better 1-on-1s?
The answer is preparation. It’s rare that an amazing conversation springs forth when nobody has a plan for what to talk about. If you want to make 1-1s valuable, both parties should prepare. Here are some ideas to get started:
Discuss top priorities: What are the one, two, or three most critical outcomes for your report and how can you help them tackle these challenges?
Calibrate what “great” looks like: Do you have a shared vision of what you’re working toward? Are you in sync about goals or expectations?
Share feedback: What feedback can you give that will help your report, and what can your report tell you that will make you more effective as a manager?
Reflect on how things are going: Once in a while, it’s useful to zoom out and talk about your report’s general state of mind—how is he/she feeling on the whole? What’s making him/her satisfied or dissatisfied? Have any of his/her goals changed? What has he/she learned recently and what does he want to learn going forward?
Every time I have a one-on-one, I have a single mission: to understand how the other person is feeling.
Questions to Ask in 1-on-1s as a Manager
Identify: These questions focus on what really matters for your report and what topics are worth spending more time on.
- What’s top of mind for you right now?
- What priorities are you thinking about this week?
- What’s the best use of our time today?
Understand: Once you’ve identified a topic to discuss, these next questions get at the root of the problem and what can be done about it.
- What does your ideal outcome look like?
- What’s hard for you in getting to that outcome?
- What do you really care about?
- What do you think is the best course of action?
- What’s the worst-case scenario you’re worried about?
Support: These questions zero in on how you can be of greatest service to your report.
- How can I help you?
- What can I do to make you more successful?
- What was the most useful part of our conversation today?