6 Secrets to Running More Productive One-on-One Meetings

The best leaders practice frequent communication with their employees.  Many managers use one-on-one meetings as a tool to check-in with each direct report and confirm that all projects are on the right track.  But if you are simply using this time as a way to get a project status update, you and your employees may not be getting the most out of these meetings.  A one-on-one meeting should be viewed as a strategy session where you have a block of uninterrupted time with your employee to discuss how you can support their success, growth and happiness in your organization. This is the time to provide guidance, discuss short and long-term goals, address challenges, brainstorm on solutions, and build stronger relationships with your team members.  Here are a few tips to help you make your one-on-one meetings more productive and effective:

Make it a priority
Have a schedule and stick to it.  By putting it in your calendar and making it a recurring meeting, both parties are less likely to cancel. Try to stick to the planned meetings as much as possible to show your employees they are valued and a priority to you. As a manager or leader in your company, it’s very likely that other important issues will arise or you will need more time to complete your own personal projects, but if you frequently cancel or reschedule, your employees will get the message that they are the least important part of your schedule.

Be present
Give your employee your full attention.  In today’s era of smartphones, we have frequent distractions like text messages and incoming email alerts so it’s hard to have a conversation or a meeting without getting interrupted.  Keep your phone on silent and don’t look at your computer during the one-on-one meeting.  This practice goes a long way toward making your employee feel important and you are taking this meeting time seriously.

It’s okay if it’s uncomfortable
Addressing difficult topics is a necessary part of being a manager.  The one-on-one meeting is a time when your employees can bring up something they might not feel comfortable discussing in a team setting, such as a conflict with a co-worker.  You might not be able to solve the situation right away but it’s good to reassure the employee that you will work together to reach a solution.

Put on your coaching hat
This isn’t a performance review.  A good one-on-one meeting focuses on what matters most to the employee.  These conversations should be informal and the subject matter can vary between employees.  Some common topics that you can cover include work habits and productivity, co-worker relations, happiness and motivation, short-term and long-term goals, learning and development, and feedback on your management style.

Listen more than you talk
The one-on-one meeting is a time to carefully tune in to hear what’s on your employee’s mind.  You really want to understand the information being shared.  Here are some sample questions to get a productive conversation started:

  • What challenges or roadblocks are you facing?
  • Is there anything you need from me?
  • Is there anyone you find difficult to work with?
  • What could help us work better together?
  • What kind of projects do you enjoy working on? What do you want to work on next?
  • What do you want to accomplish in the next couple of years?
  • What areas do you want to learn more about?
  • How are you feeling about your workload?
  • What do you like and dislike about my management style?
  • How can I support you better?

Take action and follow through
To make the meetings more effective, take notes about what was discussed and create an action plan for the next meeting.  You will want to ensure that before the next meeting, both parties have made some progress on what was discussed.

Having regular one-on-one meetings with each team member may seem time consuming but these conversations are so valuable.  They can help you hear about problems before they escalate and show your employee that he or she is deeply supported.

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