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How to Effectively Conduct One-on-One Meetings


“Ninety minutes of your time can enhance the quality of your subordinate’s work for two weeks, or for some eighty-plus hours.” – Andy Groves

One-on-one meetings matter. However, they often get wasted or they just don’t occur.

This is not because managers don’t care – they often are just unaware about how to conduct an effective one-on-one. Below we list some key tips on how to conduct effective one-on-one meetings as well as list out some questions that managers should be asking their employees during these conversations.

1) Be prepared – make an agenda on what will be covered

Managers need to prepare for this meeting and encourage the employee to be prepared too. Part of being prepared is setting an agenda. Some things the managers should cover during the one-on-ones include:

(i) Effective feedback on current projects: There is an art and science when it comes to giving feedback. Poorly executed feedback can actually be demoralizing for employees. Remember that feedback must be effective. Check out an article we wrote about effective feedback.

(ii) Career/growth goals: If the manager has had regular feedback meetings with their direct reports, they should already have an idea of what competencies the direct report should work on. The manager should also encourage the direct report to talk about their self development by asking open end questions:

– What do you think you should improve on?

– What personal strengths help you do your job effectively?

– What skills do you have that you believe we could use more effectively?

– What would improve your performance? What type of training do you want/need?

– What opportunities do you want more of?

(iii) Interpersonal issues: Managers may be unaware of any anger, hostility, and frustration that their direct report may be having toward a co-worker. This may be common in a remote workforce where the manager cannot physically see what is happening. Asking open ended questions can help the manager better understand if there are any problems on the team.

(iv) Team improvement: Strong team dynamics produce high-quality results and solve problems faster, and many successful companies acknowledge the importance of strong team dynamics. Understanding how your team interacts is incredibly important. The manager should routinely strive to improve their team’s performance by asking questions such as:

– Do you have ideas to help the team work/communicate better?

– How well do you think you know people on the team?

– What would be the one thing you would change on the team?

“Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.” – Steve Jobs

(v) Personal topics: At the end of the meeting, the manager should give the direct report some time to talk about anything that they think is affecting their work. This is particularly important if your organization has just experienced a change initiative. While this may feel sufficiently awkward if there isn’t a strong rapport between the manager and director report, having frequent check-ins and conversations will help build that trust.

2) Document your meeting

Whether it’s a pen-and-paper approach, Google Sheets, or a performance management solution, write all the feedback notes down. Having a point of reference in the future when you conduct your next check-in with the employee will be greatly facilitated when you have a recorded timeline of what has happened in past meetings. We’d also suggest sharing your notes with the direct report to ensure that both manager and direct report are on the same page.

3) If you have to cancel, then reschedule

Managers are busy and this can lead to meetings being cancelled or being rushed. It’s hard to conduct an effective meeting if you go weeks or months without talking or if your meetings are rushed 10 minute conversations. Continuously canceling can also cause a backup of issues that could get worse over time. One-on-one meetings matter – make sure that managers are investing the time.

How many times a quarter do you have one-on-one meetings with your manager or direct reports?

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