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1:1 meetings are the perfect opportunity to create the safe space our employees need to talk about issues they wouldn't talk about in other meetings. 

They are the best occasions to understand how they feel about the company and their work. 

But are we really getting actionable information that allows us to work on their concerns? Do we know how we can reinforce the good things?

We all have regular 1:1 meetings with our direct reports because they help us develop a stronger relationship with them. However, we should not stay on the surface. 

Understanding how to extract the most value from these conversations is key to knowing what to focus on to improve their satisfaction, experience and engagement.

Structuring an agenda with relevant talking points, and preparing the right questions, lays the foundation for an effective 1:1 meeting.

With that in mind, in this article we'll walk you through the 8 talking points to keep in mind to really make a difference in the results you get from your 1:1 meetings, - plus 24 questions you can use!

What Is Most Important To Them?

1:1 meetings are not like a performance review or a retrospective meeting; they are our people's meetings, not ours! 

Always consider your direct reports as the protagonists of the story that will guide your conversation. With this in mind, give them space, let them present their story!

Allow them to bring to the conversation whatever is relevant to them. Focusing on what is important to them gives us valuable clues to understand those areas, moments or situations in which we must focus our efforts to bring about change and improvement.

Questions to discuss their priorities:

  • What things would you like to talk about at our 1:1 meeting?
  • Is there anything you'd like to do that you've never done before?
  • Do you think you have a good work/life balance right now?

How Do Our People Really Feel?

Understanding whether our people are satisfied in their daily work is very relevant. We may not be aware of everything we need to take into account to measure employee satisfaction, but without doubt 1:1 meetings are a great starting point.

Not only do 1:1 meetings give us clues about whether they align with company values, policies and processes. These conversations also help us uncover certain procedures, proposals or pre-established ideas that might not work for everyone.

Questions to work on their satisfaction:

  • From 1-10, How happy are you to work here?
  • What do you enjoy most about working here?
  • What motivates you to work everyday?
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What Worries Them Most?

One of the main reasons why an employee leaves the company is employee burnout. Employee burnout is mainly caused by obstacles that prevent our employees from achieving their goals. If we identify these problems early, we can avoid major problems in the long run.

To get to the root of the problem in this regard, it is essential that we have created a safe space for our reports to talk to us: are we accessible enough? Are we open to always lending a hand?

Questions to uncover their concerns

  • Have you recently felt demotivated?
  • Do you feel that something you have done has been undervalued?
  • What is the most stressful moment you have experienced recently?

What Do They Need To Meet Their Challenges?

The goal of any manager is to become a great leader for their people. 1:1 meetings are a great opportunity to offer your coaching skills and support your people to grow. 

Give them a chance to reflect on their concerns and tell you what they would change. Show them that you are there to help them overcome those issues but, more importantly, to offer support and resources so they can solve those challenges on their own in a way that helps them grow

Break down the barriers that build the challenges and transform them into something they can be proud of.  

Questions to address their challenges

  • What are some of the recent challenges you have encountered? How can do you think you can overcome them?
  • What steps could you take to improve next time?
  • Who else can help you with that?

What Are They Proud Of?

Just as we all have more answers to: What would you like to change about yourself? Versus, what do you like most about yourself? Many employees don't like to brag about their accomplishments at work.

Most of them don't talk about the great things they've accomplished, but rather how to overcome what they didn't do as well as they had hoped.

It is very important that we reinforce all their achievements, that we give employee recognition the importance it has to boost the motivation of our team members.

Asking your direct reports about the things they’re proud of will lead to great conversations about their strengths and accomplishments. It will also give you great clues about what they are most passionate about and what they would like their career to be.

Questions to reinforce their achievements

  • What would you say is the greatest accomplishment you have achieved recently?
  • What has been the most notable and enjoyable moment you remember since you started working here?
  • How do you feel your work influences the company?

What Are Their Career Aspirations?

Everyone is in a company for a purpose. Employees stay in their job for many different reasons, but most likely many of them stay to advance their career, to fulfil their aspirations.

Make sure the work your staff does is aligned with their career aspirations. By achieving that alignment, you can be confident that they will always perform their tasks as efficiently and effectively as possible. 

Show your direct reports that you care about their professional development and collect the keys to help you work on a career roadmap for them.

Questions to work on their development

  • What made you want to become [role in the company]?
  • Does your day-to-day work match what you expected when you started working at the company?
  • What skills would you need to develop to achieve your career goals?

How Do They Prefer To Receive Feedback?

Feedback is key to improvement in all departments. But it is not surprising that some people see it as a barrier to completing their tasks on time

It is our duty to help them understand the value of feedback as a great learning opportunity.

But some people may not like feedback. To reverse that situation, we must devise how our direct reports would like to receive that feedback, and how it would be useful to them. Then we can focus our comments more constructively and help them work better

Questions to understand how they perceive feedback

  • What type of feedback is most valuable to you?
  • Do you feel you receive enough information?
  • Is there anything in particular that you would like more feedback on?

How Is The Relationship With Their Colleagues?

Working on the satisfaction of our people is not always entirely up to us. There are certain factors beyond our reach that can affect how our employees feel about the company and the environment in which they operate.

Knowing what their relationship with other colleagues is like will give us clues to understand if team dynamics need to be strengthened, if there are hidden conflicts that you are not aware of, or even negative behaviors that are damaging the team culture.

Questions to improve teamwork

  • How do you feel about working with your teammates?
  • Are there any issues related to your team that you would like to bring up in conversation?
  • How can we improve the way we work as a team?

Related Read: What Will It Take To Build A Better World Of Work?

Additional Questions To Further Deepen Your 1:1 Meetings

How we structure 1:1 meetings determines what we give importance to and what we are willing to work to improve for the benefit of our people. 

To help you dig deeper into the mechanics of how to structure and conduct an 1:1’s, check out People Managing People’s complete guide to running 1:1 meetings.

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By Laura Hernández

Laura has always loved content marketing, but her passion for linking copywriting with People & Culture came when she landed at Nailted. Now, her purpose is to educate people who manage people on topics such as company culture.