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Master the One-on-One Meeting

The agenda

  • Topics in a 1:1 should be about professional growth, personal connection and for giving each other feedback. Do not use the meeting to re-hash things from a group meeting, unless there are specific things you took off-line in that meeting or need to provide/get constructive feedback.
  • 24 hours or so before the meeting, email the employee a list of what you’d like to cover. Try to do a split between strategic, tactical and personal items and always ask your employee what they want to cover too. 

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Master the One-on-One Meeting

Master the One-on-One Meeting

https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/master-the-one-on-one-meeting

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Key Ideas

Why 1:1’s are important

  • Making time for an individual says you give a damn about them as a person.
  • The 1:1 is the only forum where you can have an honest, private, conversation with each other about what’s really going on.
  • This is a routine opportunity for you, as a manager, to assess the parts (your employees) that lead to the productive whole (your team).
  • Constructive 1:1s throughout the year makes performance reviews a breeze. With routine 1:1s, review time can be more about goals and the year ahead instead of constructive feedback from the past.

Set expectations

  • If this is a new process you are putting in place at your company/in your team, be transparent about it.
  • Be clear that you do this with all employees who work directly for you.
  • Book a regular cadence of 1:1s. They should not be ad-hoc. It’s ok to skip one every once and awhile, but having it locked into the calendar is a commitment.
  • Decide the best cadence with them (weekly or every other week? 30 minutes or an hour?) and what the format should be.

The agenda

  • Topics in a 1:1 should be about professional growth, personal connection and for giving each other feedback. Do not use the meeting to re-hash things from a group meeting, unless there are specific things you took off-line in that meeting or need to provide/get constructive feedback.
  • 24 hours or so before the meeting, email the employee a list of what you’d like to cover. Try to do a split between strategic, tactical and personal items and always ask your employee what they want to cover too. 

The 1:1 meeting

  • Walk through the agenda. Ask if there’s anything else to add before you dig in. 
  • If there are hard things to discuss , try to bookend it with 2 positive topics. That way, the close of the meeting doesn’t leave your employee feeling down. 
  • Do not monopolize the conversation. This is for you each to get time to talk. 
  • Always end the meeting asking them how things are going overall and if there is anything else you can do to make them successful

After the meeting

It is important to always follow up any 1:1  with notes on what was discussed, decisions made and, if relevant, any constructive feedback that will be measured going forward. Keep it short and sweet.

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The goal of an effective 1:1 is not an update from your direct report or for you to lay down some instructions. It's a conversation. It's a chance to hear about your direct reports' ideas for your product, their career goals, and possibly their opinion of their performance.

Keep a list of three potential topics ready for discussion. When they say they have nothing to discuss, you can jumpstart the conversation with one of your items.

Manager's best tool

Your most precious resource is your own time and energy. When you spend it on your team, it helps build healthy relationships.

Your job as a manager isn't to give advice or 'save the day.'' It's to empower your reports to find the answer themselves. If you want to understand what's going on, ask. Let her lead the conversation while you listen and probe.

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Change the setting sometimes

Occasionally, go for a walk and have your 1:1. Occasionally, go get coffee. Go sit in the courtyard. Get lunch or breakfast or dinner. Most often, it’s probably easiest and most efficient to...

It's ok to cancel

If there’s nothing to discuss, it’s ok to cancel. People, too often, view 1:1s as mandatory, but it’s refreshing when you both acknowledge that things are ok for now, or the time may be better spent other ways.

Let the employee own the agenda

It is a simple, symbolic practice that helps them feel ownership and autonomy for their work and their time. 

You’re saying, “You tell me what’s important,” and of course you can coach and guide them to help refine over time what’s important. 

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One on one meetings

...are held between a team leader and team member

They are conversations that usually last no longer than 10 to 30 minutes where they discuss what is going well and what needs t...

A recommended agenda

Most effective one on one meetings typically last about 30 minutes:

  • 10 minutes for the direct report from the employee;
  • 10 minutes for the manager’s remarks and messages, and;
  • 10 minutes for the employee and manager to draw a way forward.
Objectives of effective 1:1 meetings
  • find out about the employee’s current emotional state.
  • track the status of the employee’s performance and how their goals are coming along.
  • learn if there are any obstacles in the way to the employee’s goals.
  • discuss specific issues – either the employee’s, the manager’s, or both.
  • get honest value-added feedback from the employee.
  • provide an opportunity for the manager to coach the employee.
  • share formal and informal information about the team and company as a whole.

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Must-have questions for 1:1 meetings
  1. How’s life? - Helps with building trust.
  2. What are you worried about right now?  
  3. What rumors are you hearing that you think I should know about? ...
Remote-first Mindset

Accept that you have to put in place remote work systems, even if more than half of your employees ultimately revert to office-based work.

  • If done right, a remote-first infrastructu...
Build a socially-connected culture

Intentionally design for the same interactions that would otherwise happen if people were in the office.

  • Culture is what naturally happens when a group of people gets together for any period.
  • A great culture happens with intentional design and influence. It's the reason you should make your company's mission, vision, values, operating principles, standards, and agreements visible. 
  • Culture is experienced through emotions, including how your employees feel about the company, you, other leaders, and peers. That feeling is developed through human interaction at the water cooler, kitchen, or hallway conversations.
Your leadership presence

Your people need to feel your presence as a leader as they will have fewer opportunities to see you face to face when they work remotely.

  • Regularly show up in a variety of forms that can include weekly video meetings, periodic company-wide emails, or presence in public channels.
  • Err on the side of more communication rather than less.

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The Meeting Agenda
The Meeting Agenda

Normally managers put an emphasis on having a written meeting agenda prior to a meeting.

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A Question-Based Approach

By having a question-based approach as opposed to topics, participants begin to think and act differently, marching towards the true intent of the being together, with intention.

    Specific and Challenging Questions

    Agenda questions can be molded to be like goals for the employees, to get them on their feet, energizing them and focusing their attention.

    Group goals promote group performance, and specific goals are much better than vague goals. The meeting questions, formed as goals, need to be challenging but not outlandish.

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    Setting employee expectations
    A recent study reveals that almost half of all U.S. employees are unsure of what's expected of them.

    Setting clear employee expectations can benefit your business. Management must co...

    Employer/Employee expectations

    Employee expectations to maintain:

    • Displaying a positive and respectful attitude
    • Working with honesty and integrity
    • Performing their work to a reasonable standard 

    Employees expectations;

    • Proper training, support and leadership from management and access to resources
    • Timely and accurate payment of wages
    • Safe working environments
    • Explanation of responsibilities, company policies and procedures
    • Regular feedback from supervisors or managers.
    Team expectations

    Team expectations refer to the behaviors that occur while working together on tasks. 

    • Respect and courtesy to everyone.
    • Be accountable for your work.
    • Be reasonably flexible about task assignments.
    • Be willing to lend a helping hand.
    • Ask for help when needed.
    • Work safely together.
    • Be open to constructive feedback.
    • Be self-motivated and reliable.
    • Share ideas for improvement.
    • Be cheerful, positive and encouraging to other team members.

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