Effective one on one meetings don’t always come naturally to a manager and their employee. We believe that one of the simplest things a manager or supervisor can do to increase their effectiveness among their team members is to hold consistent one-on-one meetings. These meetings not only help you build a culture of open communication with your team, but also give you the opportunity to jointly address issues before they turn into bigger problems that could potentially impact the work.
Like anything else managers do, holding one-on-one meetings is uncomfortable at first, but once you start practicing the process, it becomes part of your routine and will get easier over time. Below are the keys I’ve landed on after years of practice.
How to Have Effective One on One Meetings
- Commit. This is the hardest thing, especially for new managers. Once you decide to add one-on-ones to your toolkit, you can’t turn back. You need to create a schedule so that each and every employee has their meeting time and that time needs to be sacred. You and your team get to decide the cadence that’s right for you. We generally recommend weekly meetings, but it really depends on the person and the role. A good rule to follow is that the employee can cancel the meeting, but not the manager.
- It’s a two-way meeting but owned by the employee. This is the part that helps with open communications. Many supervisors mistake this meeting as a time when they assign work to people and send them on their way. It should be the exact opposite. This is an opportunity to have a real conversation with one of your team members without the distractions associated with a normal workday. And once your employee understands the process, they should bring an agenda.
- Really be there! It’s one thing to make sure you stick to the schedule. It’s also important that you are present mentally. A critical factor in the effectiveness of each of these meetings is the elimination of distractions. There are several things you can do help with this. Hit the “send calls” button on your desk phone, silence your cell phone and put it in a drawer, and turn off your computer. Another way to help with this is to remove yourself from the distractive environment–have meetings in the employee’s office (if they have a private space), or go for a walk outside the building and find a park bench somewhere.
- Have at least a little structure. Having a pre-defined structure for each meeting helps both you and the employee to stay on task. It also increases the chances that both you and your direct report will come to the meeting prepared to talk about the things that are important to both of you. We recommend 40 minute meetings that are divided into three sections. This helps in a couple of different ways. It keeps the meeting short enough so that you don’t feel like they are eating in to the employee’s day. It also allows for walking time to and from the meeting if you are in a large building and there are meetings scheduled back to back. Bonus tip: Schedule at 10 past the hour and finish at 50 past. That give you both a break before the next meeting happens. We recommend a structure like this:
- 15 minutes – Employee time. What happened since the last meeting that was good and others need to know about. What are their priorities for this week. Is there anything he/she needs help with from you or others on the team?
- 15 minutes – Manager time. This is time for you to communicate any company information you need to share, delegate assignments, and provide any feedback (positive or developmental) that you haven’t had time to do prior to the meeting.
- 10 minutes – Open air. This last ten minutes is reserved for any longer term planning your direct report wants to talk about, development opportunities that might be on the horizon, and anything else either of you want to discuss.
Still not sure how to have an effective one on one meeting with your employee? Check out our Slideshare presentation.