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Master the One-on-One Meeting

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

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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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Change the setting sometimes

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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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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? ...