The 3 questions managers should ask in every one-on-one meeting

by | Mar 13, 2018 | Become More Awesome

Takeaway:If you’re a manager, ask: what do you need?; what’s getting in your way?; and what can I do as your manager to help?

Estimated Reading Time: 1 minutes, 8s.


I recently got chatting with an executive who leads around 150 employees at a large company. Somewhere in our conversation, he offhandedly mentioned a management tactic I thought was too good to not share: the three questions he asks every employee during one-on-one meetings.

These are questions this manager has homed in on during his decades-long career at a high-tech company. Here they are:

  1. What do you need?
  2. What’s getting in your way?
  3. What can I do as your manager to help?

These questions become kind of obvious once you give someone a vision and a goal and set them loose. Smart employees need to be managed, not micromanaged. The best managers run interference for their employees, removing obstacles, and helping when needed. Plus, while smart people don’t need micromanaging, they do often need guidance and help.

This manager (who asked to remain anonymous) also mentioned something else: that he meets monthly with every person on his team. Each of these meetings lasts for around 15-30 minutes—and they’re where he does his real work. These meetings let him gather information, figure out which problems need solving, and make sure everyone on the team is aligned in the same direction.

The questions are simple but important. If you’re a manager, make sure you hit all three during your next batch of one-on-one meetings—and if you really want to up your game, conduct those meetings more often.
Illustration by Sinisa Sumina.

Written by Chris Bailey

Chris Bailey has written hundreds of articles on the subject of productivity and is the author of two books: Hyperfocus and The Productivity Project. His books have been published in 27 languages. Chris writes about productivity on this site and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can become more productive without hating the process.

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