Managers who have regular one-on-one meetings with team members develop an improved sense of what’s required for better performance. Team members, on the other hand, get focused attention on work goals and career development. Plus, the opportunity to build rapport, get individuals aligned with project visions and clear on their purpose also increases performance and engagement.
Most teams institute regular one-on-ones. But how many of these meetings provide benefits for both the manager and the team member? What you don’t want is for either person to show up unsure of what to talk about, or go through the motions without accomplishing anything meaningful.
Here are seven best practices for getting the most out of your one-on-ones.
Set a consistent schedule for your meetings
The first rule of successful one-on-ones is to set a realistic schedule you can stick with, and keep it as consistent as possible. If you’re a leader who keeps canceling or missing meetings, you’re not sending a very positive message. Oft-missed meetings tell the story that someone doesn’t matter. And they do.
Have an agenda, and come prepared
You don’t have to have a slideshow presentation, but at least establish a purpose for your one-on-one. If you’re a team member, these meetings are in many ways for you. Arrive prepared with a list of topics: ask those pressing questions, share your accomplishments, get any advice or direction you need to move forward or feel inspired again. For managers, know what you need from the meetings so you can do your job as a leader effectively, too.
Don’t save everything for that weekly meeting
As a manager, you want to stay on top of work progress and project issues on a regular basis. As a team member, you want to communicate important information to your manager in the moment. Don’t let issues stack up with the goal of saving everything for your one-on-one. First off, addressing problems and questions as soon as possible produces solutions that keep things moving; and you want to use your one-on-one to communicate the bigger picture or discuss action items that will move the project forward rather than turning every meeting into a troubleshooting session.
Conduct the one-on-one in a relaxed environment
Most of us have one-on-ones in the manager’s office. This usually works, but consider changing spaces to create a more relaxed and creative environment—or to simply mix things up. If a team member has an office, try meeting there. If the meeting is going to be around a challenging conversation, you can reduce any intimidation by going to a neutral spot, like a coffee shop or a lounge space area if your office has one. And let’s face it—fewer of us even have offices, so this forces us to find new locations.
Make it a two-way conversation
Although it’s a manager’s role to fill the employee in on strengths, weaknesses and the overall big picture, it’s still a good idea to carve out 40-50 percent of the time for team members to speak their mind.
If you’re a manager, this is a time to encourage feedback. And whether it’s praise for how the project is being managed, to criticism of the big picture or ideas that may improve operations, just listen. If an employee feels like they’re being heard, it’s more likely they’ll do their best work.
Also, since studies show that bosses are the number one reason for a bad work-life balance, meetings with relatively equal dialogue can establish an open and communicative relationship between manager and employee—one that’s centered around the mutual goal to perform successfully for the business.
Focus on tangibles, like productivity
One primary purpose of this regular meeting is for managers to evaluate a team member’s performance and progress, and for the employee to optimize strengths. When a manager provides feedback on specific actions, relationships or skills, it provides the employee with a foundation to generate ideas that can benefit the business.
It’s also a great idea for managers to set monthly goals or career milestones. This provides a motivating deadline and if it’s something the team member is excited about, it will increase job engagement.
With more people working remotely, virtual meetings are becoming a norm in many organizations. You might even argue that virtual meetings are more effective since employees can have the meeting from the comfort of their own living room if they want. Video conference calls via Skype can provide much of the same benefits as in-person one-on-ones, with the sharing and analysis of mutual data made easy by Google Drive and other remote collaboration tools.
Teams work at a fast pace these days. Your one-on-one meeting is a way to get or give undivided attention—the kind that can really make a difference to your team, your career, and your overall job outlook. Savor it!