Employee performance is a topic that usually comes to mind only as annual reviews approach … or if there is a glaring issue during the year. But by only delivering meaningful feedback to employees once every 12 months, managers are not setting them up for success. Supporting them means clearly outlining what success looks like, keeping a pulse on their wins and struggles, seeking out learning and development opportunities for them, and championing their accomplishments.

You can hardly achieve all of these goals in one meeting, which is where regular (at least biweekly), one-on-one meetings come into play. Committing to and establishing recurring, personal meetings with each of your team members is vital to creating a constant feedback loop, where everyone receives praise and constructive criticism first and fast. Whether you choose for these meetings to be formal or informal, a structured agenda is a must to ensure your people feel heard, understood and empowered. These four questions check all of those boxes.

1. What’s on Your Plate?

The first order of business should be just that – the business! Allow your employees the opportunity to give you a general rundown of what they are currently working on. While you oversee their work, it is unlikely that you are aware of everything they touch. As a manager or supervisor, you are responsible for driving results through other people’s work, which is why it is imperative that you are “in the know.” Gaining this understanding will also help you to delegate better, keeping in mind what else your team members are working on. You can help them prioritize to meet more urgent needs and reasonably balance their workload.

2. What Is Going Well for You Right Now?

With the hustle and bustle of our day-to-day, good work can easily go unnoticed. Asking your employees this question invites them to share and discuss recent achievements you may or may not be aware of – and makes them feel noticed and recognized, which will lead to increased motivation. Dig deeper with this question by trying to uncover what specifically led to their success, so your employees know which key behaviors they should continue.

3. What Obstacles Are You Facing, and How Can I Help?

Framing the question this way allows you to be the one to acknowledge that challenges are an expected part of work life, that it is all right to discuss them and that you are a resource for your people. The notion that employees can only approach managers and supervisors with solutions, not problems, has been ingrained in many people. As such, organizations are often blind to their greatest issues. Let your people know that you understand that hiccups exist and that addressing them with you is not taboo. You can offer behaviors for them to stop doing or ways to do it differently. In the case that their problem is with you, you have solicited this feedback, created a safe space for discussion and can identify your own blind spots as a manager. Keeping this topic as a recurring agenda item will also allow you to intervene in a timely manner, nipping issues in the bud before they become larger.

4. How Are You Progressing Toward Your Goals?

The first step in employees’ achieving their goals is to identify them and share them with you. It is never too late – or too early – to have this conversation. After all, as a manager, you are responsible for providing them with the tools and resources they need to achieve their goals. Goals will continually evolve throughout the year, so having them top of mind will ensure you are both aligned with them. Besides helping your people reach their goals, awareness of those goals will help you identify growth opportunities.

Having consistent conversations with your employees and delivering and soliciting rolling feedback is crucial to performance management. Including these four questions in every one-on-one meeting you have will address the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful. After all, you never know until you ask.

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