better one on one meetings with manager

Better One-on-one Meetings: 5 Steps To More Effective Manager-Employee 1v1s

March 20, 2019

One-on-one meetings between managers and employees, where the focus is all about open communication, growth and career development (and not just current, day-to-day projects and happenings) are far from a new concept. However, you might be surprised how many of today’s well-established organizations there are out there where these types of one-one-one meetings don’t exist.

When conducted well, one-on-ones can be extraordinarily productive, allowing both employer and manager to learn and grow. When done poorly, they are a colossal waste of everyone’s time.

Learn how to conduct effective one-on-one meetings to improve productivity and morale, for both employee and manager:

5 Steps to More Effective Manager-Employee One-on-Ones

1. Stick to the schedule.

Frequent, regular communication with employees is critical to your success as a manager as well as your team’s ability to accomplish its goals. That said, it’s impossible to derive benefit from one-on-one meetings if you’re constantly cancelling or rescheduling. Similarly, creating a policy of “on the fly” meetings can lead to miscommunication and confusion due to the lack of structure. Instead, work out a meeting time and frequency that works for both parties. Weekly meetings typically work well, though biweekly or even monthly meetings may be better for some organizations.

Once you’ve set the schedule, stick to it. Avoid canceling unless absolutely necessary, and rather than canceling – reschedule it. Even if you don’t have something concrete to talk about, holding regular meetings keeps the lines of communication open. It also sends the message to your employees that you value their time and work. With 79% of people who quit their jobs saying that lack of appreciation was a primary reason, maintaining your meeting schedule can make a big impact with individual employees and with your team as a whole.

2. Set an agenda.

Often, a good agenda is what sets a productive meeting apart from a waste of time, which is why 73% of people say a prepared agenda is “very important” for the success of a meeting. Remember that an effective agenda is a collaborative framework, rather than a rigid schedule. Both you and your employee should have the ability to create agenda items, so share the document on the cloud to ensure you both have access.

A good agenda should have a limited number of items. Rather than checking in on every aspect of your employee’s performance each meeting, focus on the most important items and try to ask meaningful questions that will lead to better productivity and happiness from the employee. This also gives your employee a sense of what to prioritize in the coming week(s).

3. Document the meeting.

Work gets busy whether you’re an employee or a manager, which is why it doesn’t make sense to take up valuable brain space trying to remember what happened from one-on-one meeting to the next. That is why it is so important to document what you’ve discussed in your regular one-on-ones. This doesn’t need to be formal, but it should serve as a record of what you discussed and any action plans for the coming week. Adding a “next steps” section, in particular, to the end of your agenda is a great tactic for making sure that you’re not just talking about your issues and goals during these one-on-one meetings, but also resolving issues and making progress across those goals over time.

Of course, documentation is not just important for keeping track of agenda items and goals. It is also essential if sensitive information comes up during the course of your meeting. Always document interpersonal concerns, details about promotions or raises, and related information that arises during your one-on-ones.

4. Leave some unscheduled time.

One-on-ones are a critical opportunity for managers to get visibility into what’s going on in an employee’s mind, which is why an agenda is so important. At the same time, you should avoid over-scheduling the meeting. Save a few minutes from each meeting to simply talk with your team member. Ask how things are going, check in about personal issues, and get to know your employee as a person. This fosters a trusting relationship between you and your team members, and it also gives your employee the space to raise concerns, provide feedback, or discuss broader goals. Over-scheduling your meetings often makes meetings feel rushed, while also making it tough for authentic conversations to happen.

5. Listen more than you speak.

As a manager, you set the tone for your one-on-ones with employees. Try to provide a general structure and then sit back and listen to your employees. Having the employee lead the conversation will allow you to learn more about them from different perspectives, encourage their sense of ownership and autonomy, and most importantly, foster an environment where they’re more comfortable sharing their honest feedback. These opportunities are lost if you spend the whole meeting giving orders or talking about only your own opinions or thoughts.

If one-on-one meetings aren’t a regular thing or don’t exist at all in your company, it might be time to raise it as a suggestion for your organization to start implementing. And if that doesn’t work or isn’t an option, then it’s really all about getting your own employees or manager on board with standing one-on-one meetings.



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Linda Le Phan
Senior Content Marketing Manager at kununu.

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