Do you find yourself regularly skipping weekly catch-ups because you or your reportees are too busy? Do you feel your conversations are too often slipping towards non-priority topics? Or that most follow up actions fall into oblivion from one meeting to another?
If that sounds familiar, time has probably come to rethink the way you approach one-to-one meetings.
It is one of the most powerful tools available to the manager. However, too often, they get scheduled in agendas without giving much thought to the why and how.
1:1s are just about the most fundamental ritual of the manager-team member relation.
To get your 1:1s going (or freshen them up), the following tips may be useful.
- Format: Weekly or bi-weekly. 30 to 60min. Not at your desk.
- Agenda: Defined in advance. Recurring structure. Collaborative. Check-in is perfect for that.
- During the meeting: Be on time. Adopt the right mindset. Talk about what matters. It’s not a working session.
- At the end: Define clear next steps. Follow up.
- In the long run: Keep it fresh with new questions. Dedicate specific one-to-ones to career development and growth.
Set up your one-to-one ritual
The first step in creating an effective ritual is to set up a recurring format:
- Choose a cadence - every week or two - and stick to it
- Choose a consistent time - 30, 45 or 60 minutes
- Hold the 1:1 away from the desk - in a meeting room, in a quiet spot at the cafeteria or even head outside for a walk
1:1s are a dedicated space and time for the growth of each employee meaning you need to adopt the right mindset for these meetings. To create a trusted space, you must meet at the chosen cadence whether things are good or bad. When things are not going so well, do not shy away from a difficult conversation. When things are going well, it’s the perfect opportunity to acknowledge the team member’s successes, discuss on how to go further and touch on career trajectory.
Determine the agenda of the meeting
Having a clearly defined agenda goes a long way in making sure leaders and team members will make the most out of the conversation. We find it best to have a collaborative agenda where both managers and team members can input their points for discussion.
Find the agenda structure that works best for you and your team members and stick to it in the long run. Whatever, the exact structure, touching on the following topics is key :
- Check-in on company and personal objectives
- Current priorities
- What’s working well and achievements
- Current challenges and needed support
Also, don’t forget to add informative and administrative topics to the agenda if needed:
- Updates from management
- Admin topics such as vacations, expense reports, etc.
Meet for the one-to-one
One-to-one meetings are an important moment for team members and managers as it is their opportunity to step back and discuss important matters together. Therefore, we encourage you to go into these meetings with the right mindset:
- Be on time and give the meeting your full attention
- Always kick-off the meeting by asking how things are going at the moment
- Stick to the agenda and to the defined timing - as much as possible
- Ask for feedback
- Coach when necessary
- Review action items and topics for discussion for the next 1:1
- Ask “What else?” - you’ll be surprised what you can learn with this last open question
Determine next steps and follow up
One essential piece of 1:1 meetings is often overlooked: next steps and follow-up. If there are no next steps as an outcome of the meeting and if these next steps are not followed up on then the 1:1 meeting was nothing more than a light conversation.
When wrapping up the 1:1, don’t forget to confirm actions, topics to discuss further and agreements. A good way to do so is to write down - in a shared note - these actions and assign them either to the reportee or the manager. As a manager, don’t hesitate to own action items as well to help remove hurdles for your team members
Finally, during your next one-to-one, take a minute or two to review previous action items or topics for discussion to make sure everything has been done or covered.
Keep it fresh
The worst thing that can happen to this key ritual is for it to begin a chore - a boring, repetitive meeting that feels more like going over a to-do list rather than a meeting with added-value.
In order to avoid this, we recommend to :
- Regularly challenge yourself to see if you are still doing these meetings with the right mindset : invest in your team member’s growth and help him/her achieve more rather than use this meeting to solely get a reporting on current action items
- Keep it fresh with new and surprising questions : mixing things up, starting meetings or finishing them with a thought-provoking question can benefit both managers and teams and make sure these meetings stay a forum for reflection, feedback and building a trusted relationship.
We’ve built a list of power questions on different themes to help you in this quest of keeping your 1:1 meetings engaging and effective.
Wrap up: one-to-one meetings are the key management ritual to build trusted relationships between managers and team members. With the right format, mindset, agenda, follow up actions and a willingness to keep things interesting, it is a crucial tool for engagement, alignment and efficiency.