3 Questions to Transform Your One on One

For at least the first half of 2014, my focus of posts will be around the one on one conversation and individual development.  Since I published the Talent Scorecard, I have become convinced that certain habits in leaders make the most difference – the one on one is a key habit, and I am going to focus providing resources for leaders and individuals to make these great conversations.

There are 3 keys to great one on ones:

1. The individual (not the leader) owns it (ie.  It is their time, not yours!)

2.  The leader never cancels without immediately rescheduling

3.  The leader focuses on: Alignment, Support, Feedback (giving and getting)

Let’s focus on Getting Feedback.  The three questions in the past I have shared that will help build a conversation around feedback for you as the leader are:  What should I KEEP doing?  What should I START doing?  What should I STOP doing?

The core focus of these questions are the basics of feedback 101 – Tell you what you are doing well and get feedback from your team on opportunities to be a better leader. Getting BETTER means– Being reminded what you are doing well, identify some opportunities to increase your effectiveness, and potentially identify actions/behaviors that are getting in your way of being an effective leader.

Sometimes these questions are not effective because they are so different.  Understand the spirit of the questions, and don’t be bound by the words if they do not sound like your voice.  Write your own.  Here are some alternatives, and the text in blue is the intent of the question:

  • What decisions/actions are people still wondering what the WHY was for that action?  (Are you an effective communicator?)
  • As we think about the next 3-6 months, what does the team need?  (What actions would make the most difference?  How effectively are you meeting their needs?)
  • We are doing some operational planning – What do you think should are top 3 priorities should be as a company?  As a team?  (Are you an effective communicator? How aligned is the team with your vision for what is important?  Do you have a vision?)
  • If we were going to pull the team together for a 30 minute update – What do you think they would want to hear about?  (Are you an effective communicator?)
  • What is one thing I did in the last 30 days that made your job harder?  (Do they trust you enough to tell you the truth?  What behaviors of yours are destructive?)

Remember, the goal is to make a safe environment by asking questions, listening thoughtfully (just asking clarifying questions), thanking them for being candid, and making sure to follow-up after you have thought through some things.  Pick one or two of these to ask – – and remember that you are listening for what you did that confused people and/or what do they need more clarity on?  Your questions to gain that clarity is:  Tell me a little more about that? and How could I/we have handled that differently?/What could we have done to get a different outcome?

Managing your talent/team is about having thoughtful conversations.  When we have thoughtful conversations, followed by meaningful actions, we get the higher performance that makes our organizations go forward.

What other habits or questions have you found that are most helpful in leading?