How to Have Effective 1:1 Meetings

3 min read
Apr 28, 2015

iStock_000012340138_SmallMany meetings are deemed a waste of time, but there’s one type that should prevail with your management team: one-to-one time with employees. According to a survey conducted by Training Magazine and the Ken Blanchard companies, 73% of employees say they meet at least once a month with their work team leaders. While that’s an impressive number, it still means that over a quarter of your workforce isn’t getting consistent, high-value face time with their boss. Opportunities to build employee engagement are being left on the table.

In-person meetings with your team members (or video chat for virtual teams) matter because it demonstrates that you value your people, which you need to have as one of your leadership qualities. As one Director of Engineering told me, “Nothing says that you care as a leader more than ‘I want to talk to you on a regular basis.’” Show your team members that you value their contributions and consider these three factors for productive 1:1 meetings.

Create the Framework for Meeting Effectiveness

Every work team leader has a different way of handling their one-on-one meetings. Be sure to set expectations with your team members — the topics you want covered, your cancellation policy, and who will set the agenda. During my years as a Manager of Training and Development, I made it a policy not to cancel team meetings unless there was a true company emergency or I was out sick. “Something came up” was not a valid excuse. I also requested that employees set most of the agenda, because I viewed the one-on-one as their time to bring issues to me for discussion, not for me to do a data dump on them.

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Collaborate to Determine the Best Topics for Discussion

The topics will vary, depending on employees’ needs and your current situation. Although you may need to get a quick update on the latest hot project, allocate the majority of the meeting time to things that will make a difference in the long run. Strive to have your one-on-one meetings focus on high value discussions such as career planning and other big-picture topics that often get shunted to the side during hectic day-to-day activities. Reviewing goals is especially important: Josh Bersin, founder of the Bersin by Deloitte talent management consulting firm, has found a link to goal-setting and company performance. When managers conduct frequent check-ins about quarterly goals, he states that companies can realize “30 to 40% greater returns.”

Determine Meeting Frequency

How often you choose to meet with your team members depends on their level of experience and their proximity to you. For more seasoned employees, once a month may be enough for an in-person meeting. For newer employees or those who are “at risk” (in a disciplinary situation, for example), you’ll need to increase the frequency of check-in. One of the benefits of consistently meeting with your employees is that you’ll have up-to-date information for performance reviews. If you meet with your staff monthly, you’ll have at least 12 points of data from which you can create those reviews. Even if your company doesn’t do formal reviews, you’ll still have accurate information to use to assess an employee’s performance.

Schedule Enough Time

According to the Blanchard survey, a majority of respondents said they’d like to meet with their boss for 30 to 60 minutes. I suggest a one hour meeting time, and if you’re finished early, then great. If you’re going to discuss important topics like career development, it’s likely going to take longer than 30 minutes. Another logistical suggestion: don’t schedule a meeting that is immediately adjacent to the ending time of your one-on-one. If you do, you’ll be rushed to finish up the meeting with your team member. Schedule at least 15 minutes of buffer (and preferably 30 minutes) in between meetings. Remember, you want to send the message that you care about your employees’ development. If you are constantly in a hurry when you meet with them, you convey that they’re an inconvenience on your time.

In a fast-paced work world where devices dominate communication methods, face-to-face conversations often take a back seat because they’re time-consuming. Find a way to put one-on-one meetings on your calendar — and keep them there — because they are the lifeblood of building trust and rapport between you and your team.



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