December 10, 2021

10 questions to ask in your next 1:1

The one-to-one meeting, or “1:1,” is a critical communication opportunity for managers. Especially in our newly virtual world of work, as spontaneous interaction is harder to find, the regular time set aside for a manager and their direct reports to meet face-to-face is sacred.

This set of 10 questions to ask in your next 1:1 is adapted from material presented by Bravely Coach Paolo Nagari.

Questions for managers to ask

1. What are you learning here, and what would you like to learn?

94% of employees say they’d consider staying in their jobs longer if their company invested in their development. As a baseline, the people on your team should always feel they’re learning something. At any given moment, managers should know the answers to both parts of this question for each of their direct reports.

2. What do you enjoy about working here?

3. What, if anything, would make you consider leaving? 

Exit interviews have long been used as a tool for analyzing turnover. Too few companies give the same individual attention to the experience of people who aren’t leaving. Seek feedback — both positive and constructive — as a first line of defense in retaining talent.

4. What can I do to help you feel more engaged? 

If this question sounds a little on-the-nose, that’s not accidental. None of us can read minds — sometimes your best move is to get right to the heart of the matter and simply ask, “What do you need from me?”

Questions for individual contributors to ask

1. How can I get more constructive feedback?

Constructive feedback is a necessary aspect of life at work, but few of us enjoy receiving it, or even offering it. Questions like this signal that you’re open to constructive feedback and that you understand its value to your growth.

2. How can we keep the “career conversation” ongoing?

3. Can you show me the path to where you need me to be?

Conversations about performance and role shouldn’t be limited to a review cycle. It’s often necessary to realign: Am I still on the right track? Do we still agree about what the “right track” even is? In fact, Bravely Co-Founder and President Sarah Sheehan says, “Every one-to-one should be about performance, and every one-to-one should be future-facing.”

4. What does a successful 1:1 look like to you?

5. How should I manage conflicting priorities to get things done?

6. How can I ask for help without looking like I don’t know what I am doing?

Again, none of us are mind readers. When managers have opened the space and established the trust necessary for their reports to be vulnerable about their challenges, both parties are in a stronger position to face them head-on.

It Takes Two to 1:1

There are no easy fixes, but making the most of one-to-one meetings between managers and direct reports is a great place to start. Managers should take full advantage of the opportunity to coach, give and receive feedback, realign around priorities, and anticipate needs. For their part, individual contributors can use the time to get their needs met and help their manager create a workplace that works for them.

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