Great leaders challenge themselves and their teams to think deeply about professional development and guide this process by asking thought-provoking questions. 

In a related post, I described a framework which managers can use for an effective 1:1 meeting and the significant impact this can have on team performance and general employee engagement. But what can you ask in these meetings to get moving beyond the small talk?

The following example questions may help you generate a constructive dialog:

  • Where do you see your future?
  • What is best and/or interests you most about your current role?
  • What least interests you about your current role?
  • What new skills and/or duties would you like to develop or add to your current role?
  • What would be your ideal role?
  • What do you think you need to learn to be eligible for such a role?
  • How can I best support you?
  • How could our organization best support you?

This next question is a personal favourite of mine, both in 1:1’s and when interviewing potential new employees. I like to build upon it to help me identify core values for individuals. i.e. What Matters Most?

“What makes for a really great day at work for you? I mean, the kind of day that makes you go home and talk to friends or your family about how wonderful it was!? “

Questions like the above also show your interest in the individual, and the answers you get may surprise you!

Here are more variations of questions to draw upon:

  • What are your thoughts about our project/our business group/the future of our organization?
  • We often hear the term ‘work/life balance’, but what does this mean to you?
  • Are we fully utilizing your talents today? If no, which ones are we not? 
  • How can I help you maximize the use of your talents/skills?
  • If you could change one thing about the work you do, what would it be?
  • What type of leaders/team members best suit your working style?
  • Where do you see your career developing over the next 1-3 years?
  • What keeps you at our company? What gets you excited to be here? 

The following are more tactical questions which can help straddle the fence between an operational and personal development conversation:

  • What is the biggest challenge you face this week?
  • What would you change right now about the project if you could?
  • What is your perception of team morale at this time?
  • How can we be more effective as a team? As an organization?
  • What is the biggest work related challenge you are facing right now?
  • How can I make a difference for you?
  • What did you find rewarding about (a recent specific) task or assignment?

A few final suggestions: use this list for inspiration, and craft questions in a way that feels natural to you in the given situation. Remember to respond to what you hear while using active listening and with empathy. You may also often find that you’re not in a position to act immediately or perhaps at all upon what you hear, but can use the opportunity to help set realistic expectations and establish self-accountability where appropriate.

Links to more of my posts related to management/leadership: 

Manager tips for effective 1:1 meetingsGoal Setting provides an Opportunity for Excellence; Talent Management is Everyone’s JobManager Tips for Building Cultural Awareness

Original article on linkedin

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