5 Energizing Conversation Starters for One-on-Ones
One-on-ones are drudgery if all you discuss is past to-dos and new assignments.
Create a list of conversation starters that energize your one-on-ones.
People are too valuable, and time is too short to leave one-on-ones to chance.
The primary purpose of one-on-ones is development.
Performance stays the same if all you do is talk about work responsibilities. Prioritize development by putting it first on the agenda.
An energizing conversation starter is the difference between drudgery and delight.
5 Energizing conversation starters for one-on-ones:
#1. Leadership qualities
When you think of your current responsibilities at work, what three leadership qualities seem most relevant?
What three things could you do this week to practice one of those qualities?
What’s draining your energy? What three things could you do to turn energy drains into energy gains?
What energizes you and how are you prioritizing this?
What are you glad you did last week? What makes you glad you did that?
What recurring frustrations are you experiencing? What specific thing(s) do you need to do differently? If you don’t know, who can help you?
What one thing will you do today to demonstrate you are committed to results through relationships?
What happens when teams are under committed to results and overcommitted to relationships?
What’s one big rock you’re working on? What makes that rock important?
How is your calendar reflecting your commitment to big rocks?
What low-value activities might you stop doing?
If things were going perfectly, what would you being doing today? How might you do that? What’s preventing you from doing that?
How might your weaknesses inform the way you lead? Interact? Celebrate? Plan?
What conversation starters might you add to the list?
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For many of us, “past to-dos and new assignments” are the ONLY part of one to ones. Sure, there’s a bit at the start where there is some pretence of interaction and banter, but then it’s down to the main part: what you did and didn’t do, and what you’re going to have to do. As long as this is the only bit of the discussion that matters, how you open it up doesn’t matter.
Thanks Mitch. So true. A good beginning is meaningless apart from follow through.
I feel link the main point of today’s topic is to not have our one-on-ones be about the work tasks being done.
As leaders, if we don’t spend time getting to know our direct reports (to know what makes them “tick”, what they like doing, what they’re good at, what they don’t like doing, what they’re not so good at, what opportunities they’re interested in, what do they envision doing in the future for their career, and SO MUCH MORE), then how are we actually LEADING them? Only touching base to talk about tasks they own is an energy suck – nobody looks forward to that.
I’m valuable to my direct reports by focusing on them first as the most important resources to nurture, grow and support. By spending time leading them instead of managing stuff, they get the stuff done and actually enjoy doing it better (from not being nagged about task updates). Otherwise, who do they have to count on if I’m just another person assigning things to them and all I care about or talk about is those assignments?
Mary, being the person they “count on” is a powerful perspective!
Dan, tell us more about the 2nd relationship question you listed. (Is the concern that the team “gets along” but doesn’t “get anything done?”)
Thanks for asking, macisaac. In organizational life, getting along has a purpose. It’s not an end in itself. I’ve noticed that “family culture” has some typical weaknesses. One is a reluctance to confront tough issues and hold people accountable. Cheers
I appreciate the premise of this post being about leading others but this is also a powerful list of questions to ask ourselves as a “leading self” exercise, and a way to potentially uncover what might be going on for us individually as leaders and as individuals. These are going on my wall right now!
Rachelle Tedder, I had the same thought. When I first read through the post, it felt a bit patronizing to me. Perhaps if the conversation started with the boss answering the question and then soliciting the direct reports thoughts, it would feel less so. They are definitely good questions.
These are “critical conversations” the people get little to “no” training on. I have found that part of staff development is modeling this behavior and coaching/mentoring them on how to have these conversations. These turn into the small things that should not wait until the yearly or even quarterly evaluations. BY the time the evaluation happens, nothing should be a surprise, both good or otherwise. This also shows that your are paying attention, listening, and the team matters. This skill, that needs to be taught, cannot be left to “figuring it out”.
As a leader our primary responsibility is to develop people, and evolve and empower our team. You can’t do this if you aren’t invested in who the person is behind the emails, zoom calls, and deliverables.
Boom! Thanks for sharing your insight.
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