How do you run better one-on-one meetings?

The notion of globewide corporate meetings has shifted. Now companies are becoming more employee-centered than ever before. As a consequence, the way employers and workers interact has also become more intimate. And likewise one on one meeting has now become industry-wide a standard.

Most of the contact between managers and staff previously was restricted only to either group meetings or informal over-the-desk chats. In both cases, an employee was given a little or almost no opportunity to communicate his / her concerns more freely. That has built a barrier even for employers to know their employees better.

And the philosophy of work has changed a lot. Employees now search their work for meaning. And employers want their workers to feel dedicated to their work. So it’s not going to be unfair to say that having 1-on-1 meetings is the bridge that links them.

1. Set a meeting time limit
Schedule enough time for such discussions, but also don’t make them too lengthy. No one is going to look forward to meetings that lose focus and just go on forever.

The optimum duration of each session often depends on the frequency of these meetings – a 30-minute session might be enough, for example, if you meet every week. If you meet once a fortnight or a month, maybe 60 minutes are more successful.

2. Get right in the mindset
A proper one on a session already begins before the meeting as you plan your notes and attitude to it. Viewing the one on one meeting in your busy day as an unwanted diversion won’t get you far. Take a few minutes now to clear your mind and reflect on the person you ‘re about to meet.

Start by reviewing your previous one-on-one notes with that employee, look at their current performance stats, highlight any grievances or compliments that you have got about them.

3. Make One on One Meetings a Regular Thing
The frequency of your one-on-ones largely depends on your company size and your management style. Some sources say that such meetings should be weekly, while others state that a bi-weekly or monthly schedule would do the trick.

A smart idea is to schedule the next regular meeting at the end of each current meeting so that both sides can prepare for it. Think about the pace and duration that wouldn’t be too much for you or your staff, but would still be enough to keep everyone in the loop and stay in close touch.

New workers should be given one-on-one more often, at least once a week or two weeks. Recurring one on one session allows a regular exchange of feedback, and encourages a community of integrity. In addition, daily personal interactions help the company’s employees feel heard, trusted and respected – thereby enhancing their intrinsic motivation.

4. Make a List of Topics to Discuss
A general plan or structure for the meeting might help to get the conversation going – especially in the first few meetings. However, you don’t have to stick to the plan no matter what. See it rather as a reference that can help in case the conversation gets stuck or drifts too far from the topic.

A meeting agenda can also be helpful if the employee is introverted and won’t be likely to talk on his or her own.

For example, you can prepare three to five topics that you are most interested to know about. Or, you can keep a list of questions in front of you, but remember to be flexible – you don’t have to ask all of them if the conversation flows naturally.

Some ideas for questions that are likely to generate thorough answers:

  • Which part of the day do you feel most productive? Do you feel you’d need a different work schedule to improve your well-being and productivity?
  • What are your latest achievements that make you proud?
    Do you have any suggestions that could help us work better as a team?
  • Is there anybody on the team you find hard to work with? Could you explain why?
  • Which of your tasks keep you engaged and inspired? Is there a way to make your daily tasks more engaging?
  • What are the main bottlenecks in your present project? Can I help in any way to move it along?
  • What are the things that worry you in your job or the office environment in general? Have you ever felt undervalued here?
  • Do you feel like you are learning enough at work? Which areas would you like to learn more about?
  • What can I do to improve my management style or to support you better?
  • What projects or tasks you would be interested in working on next?

5. Keep it in place and change the setting
If you’re interested in having a frank, relaxed and genuine conversation with your employee, think not just about your words and body language but also about the meeting atmosphere. Your purpose is to be professional and effective, but not necessarily boring or repetitive.

Next, find a spot to relax and have a private chat. Cozy furniture, soft colours, office plants or even a particular window view has the power to cook up fresh ideas and suggestions. But you don’t even have to stick to a meeting room-why not go for a stroll or have a coffee in a cafe nearby?

6. Focus on the Employee
The employee should be the main focus of one on one conversations. The famous American businessman and author Ben Horowitz recommends that a manager should only talk for 10% of the time, leaving the rest of the talking to the team member.

Remember – as the person in the power position, you should set your ego aside and support your employee as well as you can. Ideally, the conversation will flow naturally around whatever matters to him or her. If it doesn’t, ask open questions that could help them elaborate their position and express their feedback.

  1. Listen like You Mean It
    Your task is not only to let your employee talk. It’s also to listen – actively. This means you don’t listen just to be polite. You are actually trying to understand and remember everything that’s being shared.
  1. Share Relevant Information
    We already mentioned that the employer should talk less and listen more. However, if you do have something important to say, and it affects this employee personally or professionally, the one on one meeting is the time to say it.

Are you preparing a new project or strategy that the employee should know about? Are you testing some new management tactics and would like them to be on board? Are new changes about to impact the company or your team in particular?

Make sure you keep each employee in the loop to avoid gossip and misinformation spreading in the office. If you tell them the news personally, they will also feel more valued and appreciated.

This list of very random things to learn shows that there are valuable lessons everywhere that you look. Learning is an integral part of daily life so dedicate every day time to learning. Look around if you are looking for new things to learn. There is always a new fascinating piece of knowledge to pick up.

Check out my related post: When is the best time to ask for a raise?

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