Why One-on-One Meetings Are Key to Your Team’s Success!
At the heart of an intentional one-on-one meeting is the opportunity for supervisors to connect with team members as individuals. An effective one-on-one meeting strategy contributes to your team’s success by creating a pathway for clear, two-way communication, facilitating the exchange of valuable feedback, and promoting the trust your direct reports and teams need to achieve results.
Like implementing any new strategy, there are bound to be obstacles along the way. Keep reading to uncover four common challenges managers face with direct reports and how implementing an effective one-on-one meeting strategy can help.
- Effective one-on-ones provide managers and employees the opportunity to regularly ask questions and voice concerns.
- One-on-one meetings can help solve several organizational challenges, including:
- Providing space for quieter team members to speak up.
- Minimizing “gossip” and promoting individualized development and growth opportunities.
- Prioritizing frequent, purposeful, and structured meetings between employees and their supervisors.
- Getting to know employees (both remote and in-office) on a personal level.
- Leveraging the power of one-on-one meetings is a simple, effective strategy to bring clarity, focus, and energy to your team.
- Interested in learning more? Purchase our Supervisor Essentials: Effective One-on-One Meetings toolkit for a proven one-on-one strategy.
What is a one-on-one meeting?
Before we dive in, let’s first get a better understanding of a one-on-one meeting.
What do effective one-on-one meetings look like?
- Meetings should occur at least biweekly, and last a minimum of 30 minutes.
- Meetings should be agenda-driven and focused
- Meetings should provide the opportunity for managers and employees to regularly ask questions and voice concerns.
Leveraging the power of one-on-one meetings is a simple, effective strategy to bring clarity, focus, and energy to your team. When done well, a one-on-one setting is the ideal opportunity for managers to provide feedback to employees and personalized recognition. For more information about effective one-on-one meetings, click here.
Typical challenges that one-on-one meetings can help solve
Effective one-on-ones can help solve several challenges you may face with your team. Let’s look at a few scenarios and see how effective one-on-ones may help alleviate business struggles.
Scenario 1: You have a quiet employee who is afraid/uncomfortable to speak up in a group setting.
Sarah has been working on your team for a little over a year now. She is quiet and reserved – but extremely thoughtful and intentional about her work. During team meetings, Sarah is observant but does not often speak up. Other team members comment that Sarah “doesn’t say much” and feel like they don’t know her very well. When asked off-handedly how she is doing, Sarah always responds positively, and along the lines of “everything is fine.”
Effective one-on-ones provide space for quieter team members to speak up
You may have team members like Sarah, and a one-on-one meeting is a great opportunity to give employees the time, space, and individualized attention to provide and receive feedback in an environment that feels safe to them. More reserved employees like Sarah may perceive that more outgoing or “loud” employees tend to monopolize conversations during team meetings; individualized attention allows for team members to have their voices heard.
To help employees like Sarah feel comfortable during one-on-one meetings, focus on building a relationship with the employee. Some employees may not feel comfortable being vulnerable or sharing about their personal lives outside of more intimate settings, so a one-on-one is a great opportunity to get to know your employees.
Additionally, providing an agenda in advance allows employees to come to the meeting prepared with questions or concerns – they won’t feel blindsided by the content and can process in advance. Be consistent with the structure of your meetings going forward so that it’s easy for employees to know what to expect.
Scenario 2: You have an employee who has been burned by one-on-ones being used as “gossip sessions” in the past.
At Mark’s previous job, his manager held frequent one-on-ones with him, but rather than being focused on Mark, the meeting became a “gossip session” about other employees. His manager was more concerned with what was going on in the office rather than how to develop and support Mark. Even when Mark did speak up, there were no clear action steps and nothing seemed to change.
Effective one-on-one meetings minimize gossip and promote individualized development and growth opportunities
For team members like Mark, it may be difficult to promote buy-in when implementing regular one-on-ones with managers. Because of a negative experience in the past, these employees will need a little extra reassurance and grace as they reacclimate to meeting regularly with a manager.
To help employees like Mark warm up and open up during one-on-one meetings, be sure to set an expectation for what your meeting will look like, and set clear boundaries to avoid gossip. Both parties – manager and employee – should be respectful of those boundaries.
Similarly, managers should clearly communicate what the next steps look like. Develop an action plan during the meeting, or shortly thereafter; this demonstrates to the employee that their concerns have been heard and are being addressed. Be sure to circle back on requests that are still “open,” affirming that, even though the request wasn’t resolved immediately, there is a plan in place.
Scenario 3: You have an employee with a full schedule – their team holds a lot of meetings and they feel they do not have time for any more.
Sharron is a mid-level manager with a busy schedule. She barely has enough time in a day to get her own work done, let alone meet with her supervisor. The thought of having to give up 30 minutes a week to meet for a one-on-one, in addition to meeting with each of her own subordinates, seems like an impossible task.
Effective one-on-one meetings are frequent, purposeful, and structured
It’s an easy excuse to make – “I have no time.” However, implementing regular one-on-one meetings needs to be a priority. Prioritizing your team is perhaps the most important responsibility you have as a manager – it’s crucial to communicate the importance of these meetings to your team.
In order to help all team members recognize the importance of one-on-ones, schedule them in advance and set the firm expectation that these meetings are not to be canceled (unless absolutely necessary). If your team truly has too many meetings, try to minimize them, or find alternative tools like Slack or a Trello board to communicate with each other.
Because time is valuable, be respectful of the time you’ve allotted. Though we recommend 30-60 minute meetings, your team may only have the capacity for 15-minute check-ins – find what works for you and your team. To help everyone stay on track, set an agenda beforehand and minimize unnecessary small talk. You don’t want to appear overly stuffy and structured, but this isn’t the time for 30 minutes of water-cooler talk.
Finally, effective one-on-ones are productive. Give clear expectations about the goal of your one-on-ones and how these meetings differ from a traditional team meeting. As your team learns the value of one-on-ones, they will also learn to prioritize the time they spend in them.
Scenario 4: Your team works remotely, and one-on-one meetings feel too impersonal and/or awkward.
Eric was recently hired as a full-time remote employee. Having never met his boss in person, Eric feels uncomfortable meeting one-on-one with his supervisor, and feels it’s too impersonal and awkward. The few times Eric has met with his boss they’ve seemed distracted – like meeting with him is just “one more thing to check off the to-do list.”
Effective one-on-ones provide space for supervisors to get to know employees (both remote and in-office) on a personal level
For both remote and in-office teams, getting to know a new employee can be a challenge. Building trust takes time. For employees like Eric who are hesitant to meet with their managers right away, it’s important to create a safe space for vulnerable discussions. Work with your employees to find a time that works best for them and allows for minimal distractions.
As we’ve mentioned previously, spend time learning about your employees’ lives outside of work during one-on-ones. Make your meeting more about building relationships and less about accomplishing a task. Be sensitive to the needs of your team and be willing to accommodate them in terms of meeting structure or discussion topics. Our Resource Tool provides a helpful outline to facilitate a relationship-centered conversation.
As a leader, you set the standard from the top. If you show your team that one-on-one meetings are important, they will learn to trust the process – even when it may feel inconvenient or uncomfortable.
Take the next step
Ready to start implementing an effective one-on-one meeting strategy? Purchase our Supervisor Essentials: Effective One-on-One Meetings toolkit for helpful resources, including
- Why one-on-one meetings are essential
- The basics of an effective one-on-one meeting
- Action steps to improve the quality of your one-on-one meetings