One-on-One Meetings

 (This post is inspired by an article I read on the Trello blog. If you're not familiar with it, Trello is a web-based collaboration tool. At one glance you can see what's being worked on, who's working on what, and where something is in a process. Think of it as a white board, filled with sticky notes, with each sticky note being a task.)

If you're not familiar with them, one-on-one meetings are meetings between a manager and a team member to discuss how things are going.

Do we really need more meetings? Let's face it, most meetings could have been better handled by an email. In fact, 67% of employees say that excessive meetings get in the way of them making an impact at work!

One-on-one meetings CAN be very helpful - and not just for the team member! They can also help YOU improve YOUR performance. For the team member, use them to discuss priorities, challenges, and professional development. For you, the leader, these meetings provide an opportunity to:

  • build and maintain trust with your team members.
  • find out about challenges and sticking points.
  • give support, guidance, and encouragement to team members.
  • celebrate and recognize accomplishments.
  • solicit feedback and make necessary improvements.

Items you can discuss are:

  • career goals and growth.
  • concerns and challenges.
  • positive and constructive feedback.
  • team dynamics and relationships.

In addition to work-related topics, also take time to learn about your team members personally. They want to know that you care about them and their lives away from work. If your team members know that you care about them, as people and not just resources, they'll be more engaged and productive. (This can be a tricky line to walk though as you don't want to be too invasive or nosy.)

These meetings are a great time to get feedback on your performance, as their manager. Some questions you can ask:

  • Do you have any feedback for me?
  • Is there anything I could be doing better?
  • What can I do to support you better?
  • What can I do, or stop doing, that will make your job easier?
  • How can I help you enjoy your job here more?

Some tips for running a better one-on-one meeting:

  1. Create a collaborative agenda. EVERY meeting deserves an agenda. This works best if it's a collaborative process between you and the team member. Maybe it's just a text file or Word document in which you both note items you'd like to discuss during the meeting.
  2. Let your team member drive the meeting. These meetings should belong to the team member - not you. Therefore, let THEM drive the agenda and make sure you cover THEIR items before yours.
  3. Remember that one-on-ones are personal. This meeting is about that specific team member and nothing else. This isn't the place for company updates or team-wide concerns. This is the place to find out how THEY'RE doing, or if THEY have an interpersonal issues with other team members.
  4. Schedule enough time. These meetings should be held fairly frequently. I'd suggest no less than once a month. Even given the frequency of the meetings, there can still be a lot to cover. A rule of thumb is to allow 30-minutes for weekly meetings and an hour for biweekly or monthly meetings. (One of the things you can discuss with the team member is whether or not they have enough time to cover everything they want to discuss.)
  5. Wrap up with action items. The most productive meetings end with clear action items. Make sure to assign what's to be done, and by when, for both your team member AND you.
  6. Resist the urge to reschedule. If you constantly reschedule these meetings, your team members will get the message that they (the meetings as well as the team member) aren't that important to you. Put them on your calendar. You can always schedule other items around those meetings.

If these meetings are done well, they can help you resolve issues and conflicts, achieve goals, and create a team of happy and engaged team members.


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