One-on-one time with your team members is one of the most powerful tools in a manager's toolkit.
This focused time is foundational and allows you to build relationships and engagement with your team. It is often overlooked or undervalued, and allowed to fall off the calendar too easily, but this time is critical to the health of your employees and the organization.
We recommend 30 minutes per week for each employee to start. Depending on your role and number of direct reports, you may need to adjust that down a little, or if you’ve got new employees, perhaps meet more frequently at first.
The purpose of the one-on-one is multifaceted. You’re building a relationship, setting expectations, fostering alignment, solving problems, developing solutions and career paths, and gathering and providing feedback.
Here are a few simple guidelines that will ensure your 1:1 sessions are productive and meaningful:
Use a tracker.
This can be a shared doc, or a specialized software platform. The important part is that you’re tracking progress and not losing important action items between sessions.
Set an agenda in advance, use the meeting notes of the invitation and send a recap.
Creating a cadence for specific types of communication will help guide conversation and ensure you’re not relying on memory to hit the most important topics. Make sure the agenda is prioritized for long-term important topics, not just urgent ones. Many of the most urgent topics are actually project updates that can be communicated asynchronously, leaving your valuable focus time for more important things. In particular, if you’ve given the employee an opportunity to present to a larger group in the organization, this is a great time for a dry run and prep. Once you've completed your 1:1, send a recap to ensure you and your team are aligned and agree on outcomes.
Go off track now and then.
It’s a great idea to leave room for the conversation to wander a bit and give the employee space to talk about issues on their mind. This time is a great opportunity for the employee to brainstorm or be creative with you. It’s not critical to make final decisions to every new problem in the moment. Providing psychological safety for questions, problems, and innovation goes a long way in encouraging the employee to take calculated risks and grow their capabilities for the good of the company.
Listen ⅔ of the time.
Ask valuable questions, let the employee talk, and be quiet. In fact, when you do speak, framing feedback on new ideas in the form of questions encourages even greater contribution from the employee. Your feedback is most important for fostering alignment, setting expectations, and helping to guide the employee through the guardrails of their work.
This meeting is important, and the priority you put on this meeting is an indication of the value you place on the employee and their work.
Ask for feedback, and ask for permission to give feedback.
Use the sentiment questions to gain feedback from the employee on the dynamics of engagement. Ask specific feedback questions for your leadership. Ask for sentiment regarding recent changes and updates. And ask for permission to give constructive performance feedback to the employee.
These one-on-one sessions are so important, and even instrumental in building your team and your company. Don't miss this opportunity to reset, build great habits, and stay up to date with people and projects. This is the best way to build momentum in your organization.
Sample 1:1 Agenda
Check-In (This is a quick "hello" or "how was your weekend")
Last Week / This Week (Key updates/accomplishments from last week and priorities for this week)
Updates from Leadership / Updates from Team Members (The manager provides recent updates or decisions from their meetings, and the team member provides updates from the team)
Follow Ups from last 1:1 (Were there any open action items from your last meeting?)
Stuck Points (Does the employee need help to accomplish tasks or goals?)
Progress to Career Goals (How is the employee progressing toward their goals, and how can you help?)
Engagement Survey Questions (Based on the 4 Dynamics of Engagement, is the employee thriving? Are there any areas for improvement?)