Performance and Stay Questions in 1:1s

Published on January 15, 2024 (↻ February 26, 2024), filed under (RSS feed).

I’m a big fan of weekly 1:1s with everyone on my team (as well as with my manager and key stakeholders). I believe in the importance and value of weekly 1:1s so as to maintain close alignment and connection.

These 1:1s I like to keep open and casual, allowing the other to drive and own them, but also using them myself to discuss anything of interest and importance. (I’ll leave this open here as well, but I could and might discuss 1:1s more in a separate post.)

Roughly once a month, however, I include a specific set of questions in the 1:1s with my team. These questions started out as a copy of the “magnificent questions” promoted by Christopher D. Lee in Performance Conversations; which I later extended by Kimberly Franklin’s “stay” questions; and which I then consolidated and tweaked further based on both feedback as well as observations.

Let’s go through Lee’s and Franklin’s questions before I share what I currently ask.

Contents

  1. The Original “Magnificent Seven Questions”
  2. The Stay Questions “Top Employers Ask”
  3. The Performance and Stay Questions I Currently Ask
  4. Everything Is a Process
    1. Removed Questions
    2. Added Questions

The Original “Magnificent Seven Questions”

The seven questions Lee recommends are the following:

  1. What is going well?
  2. What is not going well?
  3. What else is going on?
  4. What is the status of your goals, action plans, and follow-up items?
  5. What can I do for you?
  6. How are your professional relationships going?
  7. How are you?

These serve as a framework and a shorthand method for performance conversations.

The Stay Questions “Top Employers Ask”

Franklin presents “six effective stay interview questions”:

  1. What kind of feedback about your performance or recognition would you like that you aren’t currently receiving?
  2. What opportunities for self-improvement would you like to have that go beyond your current role?
  3. What kinds of flexibility would be helpful to you in balancing your work and home life?
  4. What talents, interests, or skills do you have that we haven’t made the most of?
  5. What have you felt good about accomplishing in your job and in your time here?
  6. If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?

The idea here is to preempt attrition by identifying and addressing retention problems.

The Performance and Stay Questions I Currently Ask

I’ve built on Lee’s and Franklin’s work to refine a set of 12 questions that I then ask in my 1:1s:

  1. How burned out do you feel, on a scale of 0 to 10?
  2. What is going well?
  3. What is not going well?
  4. What else is going on?
  5. How well do you feel about owning x [like accessibility] on the team and at y [like Miro]?
  6. How are your professional relationships going?
  7. What can I do for you?
  8. Do you feel set up for success? (If not, what would change that feeling?)
  9. What kind of feedback or recognition about your performance would you like that you aren’t currently receiving?
  10. What opportunities for self-improvement would you like to have that go beyond your current role?
  11. What talents, interests, or skills do you have that we haven’t made the most of?
  12. If you could change one thing about your job, what would it be?

You’ll notice that I removed some questions, and added others. Let me share more in the next section, as the point of these changes is a different and more important one:

Everything Is a Process

These questions are a tool that benefits from, even needs, reviewing and updating. Arguably a feature of life (hey philosophy glasses), everything, not just web design, is a process.

The questions I’m currently asking are a result of such a process, and they’re likely to change going forward.

While it’s hard to anticipate future modifications, I can comment on previous ones:

Removed Questions

I’ve tried this question for a few months, but complemented by dailies and in combination with the other questions, it led to little extra insight, and felt more like repetition. I haven’t received feedback or otherwise got the impression it was missing.

I’m asking this at the start of most any meeting. (And I do listen and care about the response.)

It’s similar for “What can I do for you?” in that I regard this question tied to 1:1s themselves—1:1s are the prime forum to do something for the meeting partner. That question I’ve kept, however, as I like its explicitness.

This is a good question, but it hasn’t seemed useful to ask every n weeks.

This one comes off more like an exit interview question than a stay question, so I decided against including it in my 1:1s.

Added Questions

I added this as a safety to detect excessive workloads. I’ve learned that it’s useful to be proactive here, rather than waiting if anyone would raise a hand. I believe the question to be extremely useful to ask on a regular basis.

I added this one to casually check on sense of ownership and commitment. Of all the questions in my own pool, this is currently the one with most potential for tweaking—or even removing.

This, in turn, is the most recent addition to the catalog. It’s too early to tell its usefulness, but I hope to use this as a safety, too, to avoid people not being set up for what they absolutely should be set up for.

❧ Performance Conversations is generally an excellent book with great practical guidance. 6 Stay Interview Questions That Top Employers Ask is not as excellent an article, but touches on a topic that appears neglected—yet that can be folded into performance conversations as shown.

Combining both to ask regularly in 1:1s has proven invaluable in my work. If you’re using something similar, or are taking this to give it a shot, please share feedback perhaps as a response to the toot for this post. Cheers!

Toot about this?

About Me

Jens Oliver Meiert, on September 30, 2021.

I’m Jens, and I’m an engineering lead and author. I’ve worked as a technical lead for companies like Google, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly and Frontend Dogma. I love trying things, not only in web development, but also in other areas like philosophy. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.

If you have a question or suggestion about what I write, please leave a comment (if available) or a message. Thank you!