How to know what questions to ask in a one to one with your team

This week I’m answering a question about one to one’s.

“I’m a big advocate of having 1-1’s with my team, but sometimes they can get really samey, and I find myself either asking the same questions, or just going through their to-do list with them for the week. I’d love them to be more meaningful, but struggling to know what to do, especially when I have a few people in my team. Any ideas?”

This is such a great question, as I’m a HUGE fan of managers having regular, consistent one to one’s with their team, and not just relying on an open door policy or a monthly team meeting.

So, if you’ve got this problem, here are my tips, and I’ve also got a freebie for you at the end…

1. Try and avoid closed questions

These are questions that are your yes or no answer questions like ‘did you’ ‘have you’ ‘is it’ etc. Instead, focus on open questions like ‘What’ ‘How’, When’ etc.

If you really struggle with these try and remember TED – Tell me, Explain to me, and Describe to me, as these will encourage a lot more discussion.

2. Don’t be afraid of asking the team member to lead the way

You don’t have to facilitate the meeting, and ask all the questions. Instead have a go at asking your Team Member to lead the way and come with everything they want to discuss once in a while and see where it takes you.

3. Mix your questions up a bit

Asking the same questions every time can feel really dull for you, so I’ve got something for you. I’ve put together a PDF of 20 questions to spice up a 1-1. The idea is that you can pick one question out and focus on that, ask your team member to pick a number between 1 and 20 to see what they come up with or use them to inspire you.

If you want a copy, please click here.

And…if you’ve got any tips of your own to share please let me know in the comments.




  1. keith myers

    My colleague Debbie Allman is an HR Adviser. What she says to all those she advises is that there should be three main headings to a 1:1 :- Work, Wellbeing and Development, because everything you need to talk about comes into one of those categories.

    The meetings need to be regular (whatever that means for your business) and not just when an issue comes up. The order can change from meeting to meeting, the time may vary on each section, and sometimes the focus is on just one section. The thing is, so long as that is always the agenda, and over time you spend appropriate amounts of time on each section, you will get to know each other better, get to the nub of issues, allowing you to build up trust and increase engagement etc etc. It also means that, should they ever be required, it is easier to have conversations on delicate subjects.

    • barbaranixon

      Thank you so much for sharing this Keith, and please thank Debbie too. This really is fantastic advice. Thanks again.


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