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ARTICLE: Top 10 Questions Managers Are Asking During One-on-One Meetings

Updated: May 1, 2020


SoapBox is a software solutions company that builds a culture of healthy communication that helps leaders, managers and employees have one-on-ones, team-meetings, and company-wide conversations about the things that matter most to motivation and performance. In a recent blog article, SoapBox dug into their Question Suggester data to see which questions get used most often to start productive conversations, and posted the top 10 questions asked in real-life one-on-ones by real-life managers. Read on to see what they are!

  1. What are the biggest time wasters for you each week? It’s no surprise that people waste a lot of time at work… not only do 89% of people openly admit to wasting some time, but seemingly productive “work” tasks can actually be large time wasters. For example, employees waste: 2 hours per day simply recovering from trivial interruptions/distractions, 1.55 hours per day in unproductive meetings, $1,250 of their salary managing spam, $1,800 on unnecessary email, and $4,100 on poorly written communications.

  2. Is there anything we should START doing as a team? Thomas J. DeLong, a professor at HBS and author of Flying Without a Net, says the best questions for effective feedback are: what should I start doing, what should I stop doing, and what should I keep doing.This question could also include “as a team”.

  3. Would you like more or less direction from me on your work? No one wants to be a micro-manager, but often employees aren’t comfortable telling their managers to lay off a little. This question gives employees the opportunity to give honest and constructive feedback to their managers without the fear of hurting feelings.

  4. Do you feel you’re getting enough feedback on your work? If not, where would you like more feedback? Timing of feedback matters just as much as the feedback itself. Giving thorough feedback on launch day isn’t productive—unless it’s about typos. Having conversations like these during one-on-ones ensures the feedback is being given at the right stage.

  5. What could I do as a manager to make your work easier? According to the theory, 96% of problems are unknown to top managers—and the ones they do know about might not be the right ones to focus on. This simple question gives employees the opportunity to make their managers 1% less ignorant.

  6. Is there an aspect of your job you would like more help or coaching? A great workplace relationship is all about managers helping employees be better, and employees helping managers be better. This question in effect asks the employee to help coach the manager. Consider this: Google did a multi-year, double-blind study on its managers. They found the single most important competency that separated high performing managers from low was coaching.

  7. Do you feel you’re getting enough feedback? Very similar to #4. In general, I wouldn’t recommend asking Yes/No questions like this—unless you’ve developed a great rapport with the employee. You’ll need to be quick on your toes on where to take this conversation.

  8. How could we improve the ways our team works together? Most managers say the hardest part of the job is “people problems”. People are complex so it can be hard to pinpoint the root of these problems, but one thing’s for sure—you have a better chance of solving them if you include your employees in the conversation. Providing space for you and your employees to openly talk about ways to work better together can help you uncover issues but remember—the hardest issues to talk about might be about you, so be incredibly attentive!

  9. On a scale of 1–10, how happy are you at work? Go beyond the question itself to the follow-up question it enables. Say the employee responds with “uhm… I’d say a 7”. Your follow up would be, “How do we get you to an 8?”. It’s not about magically transforming them to a 10… it’s about the little things in their way that you can help them overcome.

  10. What are you least clear about—in terms of our strategy and goals? Here’s sad news from 2013: Researchers asked employees from 20 companies (that had clearly articulated public strategies) to choose the strategy from a list of 6 choices. Only 29% chose the right option from the list. I’m willing to bet your company doesn’t have a “clearly articulated public strategy.” In fact, I bet it’s neither clearly articulated nor public. So, I hate to break it to you, but a minimum of 70% of your team has no idea what you or the company is trying to do. Talk about your goals and strategy in every one-on-one you have this quarter—everyone will be better off because of it.

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