I was taught this set of questions to use in 1-on-1s by Jeffrey Fredrick. They have worked very well for uncovering conversations that need to happen. The order matters and each question has a purpose.
- Are you happy?
- Are you able to do work that you are proud of?
- Is there anything that you expect to see happening that you don’t see happening?
- Is there anything that I, or the company, can do to help you achieve what you want to achieve?
They seem simple enough, and they are. The secret to using them is that they aren’t just a checklist to go through. You need to be engaging with the responses with active listening, EAR, NVC, mutual learning, and you need to care about what the person is saying. Reactivity is real.
The first question seems simple enough and it is first because happiness is the leading indicator for what the person will do next (engage with the team more, leave the company, etc.). Often the person will think for a second or two and say yes and then you both move on. Pay attention to not just what they say, but how they say it and how they reacted to the question.
The second question gets to the person’s judgement of the current situation they are in. There are two parts of this “able” and “proud”. Pay attention to both parts. Often I hear examples given of what they did that they are proud of. Respond to those and explore with them what about the work they were proud of and how they can get more of that.
The third question starts to turn things from the person and their work situation to the environment around them. All of us have ideas about what should be happening. Sometimes what should be happening is visible and sometimes it isn’t. This is the chance to find out where transparency is missing and to find if the person has agency in any situation they identified that maybe they are not exercising. This question opens the negotiation to jointly design the next step on anything identified. Don’t default to just taking a task and moving on.
The last question is where you are looking for things that are really not in the person’s control. What can you, or others, uniquely do to help? I find that usually by this point there is not much that hasn’t already been handled already. Sometimes there will be that rare gem that really let’s you help. Don’t miss it.