Most managers hold a one on one meeting with their employees, but they aren’t always that effective. In fact, I would go as far as saying that most managers (and employees) feel that their one on one meeting is often a waste of time.
Why is that the case?
Shouldn’t one on one meetings be an important (and valuable) part of your work well?
Well, unfortunately one managers are establishing one on one meetings the wrong way. They focus the meeting on their needs, rather than the employees needs and as a result the meeting doesn’t turn out to be all that productive.
Here are a few things that you can do to make your one on one meetings more effective:
Have a Clear Agenda
Even if your one on one meeting has an informal feel to it, it doesn’t mean that there is no agenda. Not having an agenda is a terrible mistake.
In any meeting, an agenda is like a roadmap. It helps guide the discussion int he right direction and ensures important things are not missed. Without it most meetings are nothing more than ordinary talks. One on one meetings are no exception to the rule.
As a smart manager you should also recognize that this meeting isn’t about you. It’s about your employee. That’s why effective one on one meetings have the agenda driven by the employee themselves. If you make the agenda yourself, chances are pretty high that you will include issues that are important to you, not the employee.
Make the Meeting about Their Needs
One cannot overemphasize how important it is for the employee to be the central focus of one on one meetings. You must prioritize their concerns and help them overcome roadblocks that are stopping them from being as effective as they can be.
While you do need to review their current workload or projects they are working on, your one on one meeting should be forward looking. As a result you should be asking how you can help them complete a particular task, get access to a certain resource or overcome an obstacle stopping them from moving forward, rather than reflecting on how they did something with last week or last month.
Ultimately this comes down to empowering your employees. If they feel a sense of control over their work and know that they can leverage you, your skill set and internal relationships to help them move their work forward they will feel like they got a lot out of the meeting.
No one likes feeling as if their performance is being judged, so if you are focusing on the future, rather than the past then a one on one meeting will be something you both want to attend, rather than wish they never showed up in your diary in the first place.
Don’t Restrict 1 on 1 Meetings to Being Status Updates
If you follow the two steps above you will be well on your way to making sure the one on one meeting doesn’t just feel like a status update.
This is important because you want to make sure that the one on one meeting is a valuable use of your time, and the time of your employee. If you just run through a checklist of what they have done then no one is going to feel particularly motivated afterwards.
So how do you actually stop a meeting from just being a status update?
Well first of all even if the employee is driving the agenda you need to coach them to focus on the future rather than the past.
I would also recommend that you leave the status update part of the meeting till last, unless it is central to the problem/issue they want your help to overcome.
If you focus the first part of the meeting on helping them with the challenges they are facing and give them the tools and resources they need to get their work done then they are going to view the one on one meeting in a positive light.
You can then just have a quick recap of the past week at the end. It doesn’t have to be long. It can literally be “last week I know you were working on x, y and z. Can you just give me a quick recap on how you went with that?” and there you have it, you are done!
Follow Up on What You Promise
There is nothing worse than having a one on one meeting with your manager who promises to do something for you…. and then never does it.
That situation doesn’t breed confidence in anyone. More importantly, if you do it enough that employee will eventually stop asking for your help because they know nothing will come from it. Not only does this reduce trust people you and your employee but it ultimately means that you could be missing important information that would have been shared with you if you chose to engage properly in the process.
The best process I have found for one on one meetings is to recap the action items at the end. As a manager you can simply say “great, so I have point A, B and C as things I need to get back to you on by x day”.
Then add it to your task management tool of choice and make sure you actually do what you promise.
Maintain a Consistent Rhythm
As with most things in the world of business consistency is key. And one on one meetings are no different.
You need to get in a cadence with your employees and schedule one on one meetings that suits the flow of your business/organisation. For most teams a weekly one on one meeting is sufficient. In some industries however, having 2 a week or even more may be required.
I would however be hesitant to let one on one meetings drift beyond a fortnightly time horizon otherwise the time gap between time you meet gets too great. In fact, if you currently have a fortnightly one on one meeting I bet it is because you would rather not have it at all. You are trying to space it as far apart as possible because you actually dread having it.
In addition to the cadence you also need to set aside an appropriate amount of time. Often 60 minutes can feel too long for many meetings, and sometimes 30 minutes is too short. While its not a standard amount of time for business meetings 45 minutes is usually a good place to aim for.
The benefit of the 45 minute meeting is that even if it goes overtime chances are you don’t have anything else scheduled in that 15 minute slot anyway. If it does end on time then you can use that 15 minutes to action what you promised during the one on one meeting itself. It’s a win-win.
Overall, the most important thing to remember when it comes to running an effective one on one meeting is to ensure that it provides value.
Firstly, an effective one on one meeting needs to provide value for your employee. But it also needs to be an effective use of your time and ensure that the goals/objectives of the organisation are being met.
In addition, don’t be afraid to experiment with the format of your one on one meeting. Chances are you won’t land on the most effective format the first time round. Just cause you start with a particular agenda doesn’t mean you need to stick with that forever.
Find what works for you and your team because at the end of the day a one on one meeting shouldn’t be a process. It should be something you want to do because you know it will provide value and make your day to day life at work easier and more effective.
Also published on Medium.