Most employees today have heard of a one-on-one meeting. In the workplace, these meetings are commonplace. Though widely known, there’s some confusion about what these meetings entail. A lot of that has to do with past experiences and where a person has worked before.
Some might think of a one-on-one meeting as an annual review. Others may view these as weekly or monthly meetings with their manager. One-on-ones vary for different companies and different teams. Sometimes, even within the same team, the approach among individuals is different. Ultimately, the goal is to foster a positive working relationship between managers and their employees.
No matter the frequency and purpose of your one-on-one meetings, they should be beneficial. To gain the most from the meeting, be intentional in your approach. Keep reading to learn ways to make the most of every one-on-one.
1. Discuss the Frequency and Goals of the Meeting
As a manager, talk to your direct reports about their preferences for individual meetings. Making sure you both are on the same page can make your one-on-one meeting more effective. If you like to meet weekly, but your employees prefer a monthly cadence, compromise and try a biweekly schedule.
If you have several direct reports, it may be more manageable to keep everyone in the same timeframe. Once you decide the frequency, get it on the calendar. Creating your one-on-one as a standing meeting helps show the importance you and the organization place on these meetings. It also shows the employee that you have set aside dedicated time for them.
For new hires, or if you’ve made a change in your one-on-one structure, discuss expectations with your team. If your direct reports know the purpose of the meetings, it will keep them on track. One-on-one meetings often free up time for other meetings as well. When employees know they have this individualized time, it allows other meetings to stay on task.
2. Be Intentional With Your Time
Getting your one-on-ones in the calendar will help your team be intentional with their time. It creates a more focused meeting and increases efficiency. It also shows you value your employees and have time for them. Try to avoid canceling these meetings, if possible.
If you meet weekly, you might only need a 15 or 30-minute block of time on the calendar. If you meet once a month, maybe you would like an hour. Depending on your organization and the topics you want to cover, an agenda could be helpful. Agendas allow you to think critically about what you want to cover. They also ensure you have time to address everything.
If this structure feels beneficial to you, reach out to your team members prior to their meeting. Ask if they have items to add to the agenda. You can even take notes with action items to move things along and make the most of your time.
3. Allow Space for Feedback
Your one-on-one is a great time to discuss the current projects and tasks employees are working on. This allows you to gain a better perspective on where projects stand. It also gives your employees the space to ask questions.
Your feedback might be directed to a current task or it could be broader, covering overall performance. One-on-ones can also be used to build up to an annual review. If there are areas for growth, discuss them in these meetings; don’t wait for the yearly assessment.
Be open to feedback from your employees as well. Good leaders are willing to grow and they accept constructive criticism. However, keep in mind that every relationship is different. Creating a space for dialogue and feedback allows your team to work better together. It also helps build trust and respect.
4. Focus on Professional Development
It’s important to focus on supporting your employees in their daily work. But, to build a long-term professional relationship, you should also focus on professional development. Talk to your employees about their professional goals. Where do they want to go within the company and their career?
Allowing them space to work and develop their skills can be mutually beneficial as well. Investing in your employees not only enables them to learn but also helps them be more effective in their roles. It could also prepare them for promotion within your organization.
Use your one-on-ones to discuss progress made toward these goals. You might even assign your team books to read about professional development or team culture. Talk about these books during your meetings.
5. Remember the Human Element
Employees who feel valued and heard tend to stay longer than those who don’t. Remember that your employees are not task robots; they are humans. Take time to understand their life and what’s important to them.
Understanding different seasons in a team member’s life and what they need to achieve work-life balance is vital. It also increases their work satisfaction. For example, if you know they are having a baby soon, be considerate of the time off they will need.
Let your employees know your outside pressures and joys as well. Sharing that you’re working a half-day to go help an aging parent can create a caring dynamic with your team. Just leaving at noon without a word might leave employees questioning how hard you work.
Like most meetings, one-on-ones may be super effective or a waste of time. Intentionality is key in making them a positive experience. Discuss the frequency and goals of your meetings. Be intentional with your time and allow space for feedback.
Don’t forget to focus on professional development and remember your team is made up of humans, not robots. Doing these five things can help you make the most of every one-on-one meeting.