Anatomy of Great One-On-One Meetings

  • Andrew
  • March 18, 2019
  • 9 min

One-on-one meetings are one of the most important tools you have to check the pulse of your office. While employees can often become fatigued as a result of seemingly endless meetings, some of them are absolutely indispensable and none more so than the one-on-one. Read on to discover the advantages of one-on-ones and key takeaways on how to make the most of these invaluable moments with your employees.

One-On-Ones: What Are They All About?

A one-on-one meeting is a chance for a direct conversation between a manager or team lead and their direct report. They allow both parties involved to meet up and speak candidly about how things are going, providing an all-too-important opportunity to exchange constructive 360° feedback about performance, growth, and company-wide issues.

For more information about feedback itself, check out our feedback guide or learn about bottom-up feedback here.

Making The Time: Why Have One-On-Ones?

When Google Calendars are blocked out with a seemingly endless barrage of prearranged discussions and company-wide gatherings, here’s why it’s essential to make time for one-on-ones:

  • To increase employee engagement. The Harvard Business Review found a clear correlation between disengaged employees and a failure to perform these meetings regularly. Strikingly, the study showed that employees who received twice the amount of one-on-one meetings in comparison to their peers were 67% less likely to be disengaged.
  • To build relationships. It’s impossible to know what makes your employees tick simply based on end-of-the-month statistics. In order to make sure that they’re happy and that you’re getting the best out of them, you need to be sure that you take the time to speak with your team and build up a level of trust, which can only be forged through face-to-face interactions.
  • To encourage growth. There’s no better way to find out how you can help facilitate personal and professional development within your team than through regular one-on-ones. These meetings allow you to find out what’s important to each and every individual, what they enjoy working on, where their strengths lie, and what they care about. Use the information you glean to better understand them and to make sure they’re living up to their full potential.
  • To increase efficiency. Meeting regularly — ideally, no less than once a month — to discuss day-to-day operations is the best way to be certain that everyone in your team is performing the tasks that suit them. After all, we all work best on the things that we care about, which makes finding out what employees want integral to increasing the overall efficiency of the team.
  • To create a safe space for constructive feedback. Whilst giving feedback to employees may not be everybody’s favorite task, most employees actually want constructive feedback from their managers. Of course, feedback shouldn’t always be negative. Studies show that employees whose managers focus on their strengths are 67% more likely to be engaged.

Good Habits: How To Plan Your One-On-One Meetings

Our time is precious and when our work days are filled with countless other tasks and meetings how do we make sure to get the most out of our one-on-ones? Here are some tips on how to make sure yours are as effective as possible.

  1. Routine. It’s important your meetings occur consistently; every few weeks, every month — whatever works best for your team! This way, employees know they’ll have a chance to say whatever’s on their mind in the near future.
  2. Be prepared. Before the meeting, prepare a checklist of all the topics that you want to discuss and encourage your employees to do the same. This keeps your one-on-ones structured, streamlined and sees to it that no important topics will be forgotten.
  3. Pay attention. There’s no point in taking valuable time out of everyone’s day if you’re not really listening to what your employees are saying. In fact, paying more attention to your phone than the person you’re in the room with undoubtedly sends the message that they’re not worth your time — be fully present during your one-on-ones.
  4. Look on the bright side. Create a positive energy in the room by opening your discussion with something good your employee has done recently. Did they give a successful presentation or go above and beyond in the last couple of weeks? Then let them know! Sharing positive events will result in increased receptiveness for the remainder of your meeting.
  5. See the bigger picture. It is important to find out how your employees would like to see their career progress. This way you can manage their responsibilities so that their tasks are more in line with their own ideas about their professional development. This results in greater motivation, job satisfaction, and improved workplace skills.
  6. End on a high note. Just as you opened your meeting on a positive note, make sure to do the same at the end. Express gratitude for the work your employee is doing, so they spend the rest of the day knowing that their efforts are valued.

One-On-One Agenda and Template: Ideas To Format Your Meetings

Your one-on-ones will vary from person to person. Every employee has their own needs and will benefit from different strategies. However, to maximize the effectiveness of your meetings, we suggest the following steps to get everything you need in just 30 minutes:

Step 1: Ease into things. (~2 Minutes)

Open your meeting by finding out how your employee’s day is going and let them know about something positive they’ve done recently.

Some good questions are:

  • “How have things been?”
  • “Tell me about your week.”
  • “Great job on your presentation the other day!”

Step 2: Main issues. (~15 Minutes)

The majority of your one—on-one will be concerned with the key issues that your team are facing. Get to the root of any problems that may be occurring by asking direct — but open-ended — questions.

Some good questions are:

  • “What are your favorite things about working here?”
  • “How can we improve our product?”
  • “How do you think our team is performing?”

Step 3: Taking Stock. (~5 Minutes)

Now is the time to inspect how your employees are handling their current workload and to give them an idea of how they’ve progressed since their last one-on-one. Help them identify what they’re doing well and what could perhaps use some improvement. If possible, show them some quantitative data to support this.

Some good questions are:

  • “How do you feel about what you’ve achieved since we last met?”
  • “What are the tasks you feel like you could use some help with?”

Step 4: Make a plan. (~5 Minutes)

Set targets and deadlines for what you’d like to be achieved or improved upon in the future. Be clear about what you expect to have happened by the time you have your next one-on-one.

Some good questions are:

  • “What would you like to achieve by the next time we meet?”
  • “What would you like to work on in the coming weeks?”

Step 5: Here to help. (~3 Minutes)

Ask how you can help facilitate your employee’s growth and improvement. What support can you offer that will allow them to flourish? Ask them if they have any feedback for you.

Some good questions are:

  • “What can I do to help you meet the targets we’ve set?”
  • “Where do you see yourself progressing within the company?”
  • “What feedback do you have for me?”

Key Takeaways

  • Conducting regular one-on-ones ensures that employees remain engaged and efficient.
  • Ignoring employees for months on end, even if they appear to be content, is a sure-fire way to make them feel undervalued.
  • Holding one-on-one meetings at regular intervals gives employees the knowledge that they will be able to get whatever’s bothering them off their chest in the near future.
  • It is important to plan ahead in order to make the most of your one-on-ones.

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