Let’s just say it: one-on-ones are nerve-wracking.
As an employee, when someone drops a one-on-one meeting on your calendar, it can mess up your whole day.
As a manager (new or otherwise), you can struggle trying to come up with the most perfect and productive way to use your time: you need to get to know the status of what your employee is working on, how they feel, any bumps in the road coming up—it’s a lot of information to cover!
I want to take a little bit of the stress out of the equation for you and help you rock conducting one-on-one meetings with employees.
Prepare for a one-on-one meeting with an agenda
Have a list of your one-on-one meeting questions ahead of time. In fact, maybe even have a set of categories that you cover every single time. A good example of this could be:
- What things are working and not working?
- How is your workload going?
- What are your personal development goals and how are they going?
- Bring a case or a ticket to talk about.
Of course, you can talk about things outside of these categories, but having something regular and planned on your one-on-one meeting agenda helps to keep you away from that dreaded first five minutes of awkward silence. It also helps to build regularity and lets both you and your employees prepare for the meeting and have meaningful conversation.
Leave time for personal conversation
For me, one of the main things that I try to focus on during one-on-one meetings with staff is getting to know them personally.
Hopefully you already have some context into what they are doing professionally, so try to leave some time to create personal connections. This can happen at the beginning of the meeting, or at the end, but no matter when it happens, remember to share a little bit about yourself as well.
Create a relationship with your employee that humanizes you right off the bat, and they will feel less nervous in meetings to come.
One to one meetings are not meant to be stressful. Almost everyone has had the experience where a C-level reaches out and says “hey, let’s have a 1:1” without any other context. You sit there and think to yourself “am I going to be fired? Did I do something wrong?” and you fret away until you actually get to the meeting just for it to be a (usually) trivial and simple thing.
DON’T DO THIS TO YOUR EMPLOYEES.
Set expectations for what the one-on-one meeting is going to be about, or at least give them some context.
For example, instead of just saying “Hey, do you have a second to meet later? I put something on your calendar for 4.” You could say “Hey, I’d love to chat about that blog post you wrote. I have some suggestions for how you could do it better in the future. Do you have a second to meet later?”
Put your people at ease, otherwise they won’t come to your meetings with their game faces on.
Your employees’ time is just as valuable as yours is. Don’t use time in a meeting just because you have it. Having a one to one meeting with a manager is meant to be a time for your employees to feel like you are hearing them and their concerns, but that doesn’t mean that you need to drag out the meeting beyond the time it needs to take.
If you notice that you are filling time with conversation just to take the full amount of the meeting, stop. After the meeting, evaluate what you could have done differently, or if there is something you need to add to make it a more full meeting in the future, but do not add additional fluff just for fluff’s sake.
Also, don’t spend 30 minutes of time talking about your amazing weekend getaway, just to leave your employee wishing that you’d spent more time discussing OKRs.
Pick a good cadence
Similar to the above, there is nothing worse than having a meeting every single week and not feeling like you need it. Effective one-on-one meetings cover a large amount of information, and always feel needed.
If you find yourself not getting any real updates with your meetings, play around with the cadence. For example, I will have meetings with some employees for an hour every two weeks, or every week for 30 minutes. Try to find what works for you and stick with it. No one likes a bloated calendar full of unnecessary and meaningless meetings.
The space matters
Pay attention to what environment you meet your employees in. Whether you are remote or in-person, the environment in which you meet your employees is important.
If you are a remote-friendly company, find a great online service that will allow you to have face-to-face videos whenever you need. Make sure that it is reliable for you: imagine if you were in a meeting with one of your team members in person and ran out fifteen minutes into the meeting with no explanation? That’s what it’s like when you get disconnected from a video chat while remote.
One-on-ones done remotely are just as awesome as one-on-ones done in person, but you need to be considerate of the same things: is the room and environment where you are conducting the one-on-one steady? You wouldn’t have a one-on-one in a place where you were going to be interrupted, so you should do the same when conducting them remotely. Make sure you have good headphones, a steady internet connection, and a private room so you can devote your attention to your employee.
Ask about their career
Where does your team member want to go in their career? So many people view support as a stepping stone to other options; by talking about their career regularly, you can help show them that they can keep working in support if they want to.
A good way to do this right from the beginning of your relationship is to have them come up with development goals and list them as items to discuss in each one-on-one. Even if you don’t discuss them every single time, having them listed where ever you keep the agenda for your one-on-one means that you (and your team member) will always be thinking about what they can do to advance further in their career.
A final say on acing one-on-one meetings
One-on-ones do not need to be tricky. Follow the guidelines above and you are already off to a great start with one-on-one employee meetings.
Remember: the goal with one-on-ones is to better understand your employees needs and career growth as well as build a relationship with them. Use your time wisely and expediently, and you’ll be rocking it out in no time.