6 Tips for Effective 1-on-1 Workplace Meetings

Mar 13, 2021

A hassle? Just another thing on your schedule? You are definitely not alone if you ever wonder if 1-on-1 meetings are even worth it…

It is important to start with sharing that research has found that employees are 3x more likely to be engaged at work if they have the opportunity to meet regularly with their manager – through a scheduled 1-on-1 meeting.

So let’s take a step back and look at what a 1-on-1 meeting even is. The purpose of the meeting is not to discipline the employee. That should be a separate meeting at a different time. Coaching can be incorporated into 1-on-1 meetings as long as the manager is careful to ensure it doesn’t come off as a disciplinary meeting. The purpose of 1-on-1 meetings is to help employees become their best selves at work through positive, meaningful, and intentional conversations. The employee should come out of a 1-on-1 meeting feeling empowered and clear on where they should be spending their time and how to best maximize their individual impact.

I’ll share 6 tips for having effective 1-on-1 meetings. If done well and regularly across the organization, these meetings can even boost the overall company culture:

  1. Schedule it: 1-on-1 meetings can be just 15-30 minutes and held weekly, bi-weekly, or even monthly, whatever makes the most sense. The key here is to have these meetings scheduled on the calendar, as a priority, at a time you can commit to longer term. Do everything in your power to not reschedule or cancel this meeting and stick to the designated time frame. Cancelling these meetings can make employees quickly feel like it is unimportant to you, their manager.
  2. Prepare! Don’t come to a 1-on-1 meeting feeling rushed. This gives the impression that the meeting is not important to you. If it falls on a busy day, take a minute to regroup before the meeting. Take some deep breaths, take a 5 minute walk outside, or do whatever you need to do to arrive on time and ready to have a great conversation and be fully present to listen to your employee.
  3. Focus on strengths and positivity: This is not meant to be a disciplinary meeting – I repeat, 1-on-1 meetings are not disciplinary meetings! Instead, it should be a meeting where the employee feels empowered and excited, and leaves the meeting feeling good about themselves and their contribution. Think of questions like: Since your last 1-on-1 meeting, how did you leverage your strengths? What wins did you have since the last meeting that you can highlight? How can you continue to use your strengths to be most successful? Showing appreciation for them and intentionally highlighting their wins builds trust and contributes to helping the employee feel empowered by what they do best. If you need to discuss a concern with their performance, schedule another time. Discussing performance concerns in a 1-on-1 meeting is a terrific way to quickly lose the positive intention of the meeting.
  4. Ask the right questions: Asking questions is an easy way to spur dialogue and gauge how the employee is doing. It also encourages a valuable exchange of ideas. The ideas sparked by questions can also fuel innovation and build a better rapport. For example, you can ask – is there anything standing in your way of completing your goals this week/month? What are you enjoying most about the job currently? Are there any skills you would like to learn by this time next year? How can I best support you with your current project? The answers have the potential to become great conversations which transform into meaningful action. Consider even asking how you are doing as a manager. It shows that you want to truly understand the needs of your employees as it relates to you, their manager. That said, don’t ask the question about how you are doing if you are not ready to receive what they say with an open mind. Consider seeking leadership coaching if you are unsure on how to respond if they share tough feedback.
  5. Closing the 1-on-1 meeting: Reserve the last couple of minutes to let them know you are coming to the end of the meeting. Briefly recap what was discussed and be sure you are both clear on any action items.
  6. Follow up! Ensure you are clear on the items they would like a response to. Plan to either respond at the next meeting, or between meetings if urgent. Following up shows you care and is another way to earn trust from these 1-on-1 meetings.

Remember, regularly scheduled 1-on-1 meetings are more than “just meetings”, they are an incredibly valuable tool to build trust and empower employees to do their best work. Have more questions? Expedition HR provides businesses with the HR tools and resources to set up a strong human resources foundation

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