• Navin Lal

3 Steps to Make Your 1-on-1 Meetings More Effective

It's no secret that 1-on-1 meetings are the backbone of the employee-manager relationship. However, it's not uncommon for people to think of them as a chore or fail to see the value in them. If you don't think you're getting the most out of your 1-on-1s, try following the steps below.

1. Prepare

Like anything important, a good 1-on-1 requires preparation beforehand. You don't have to spend a ton of time preparing but you should try to come up with a light agenda of items you want to talk about. Good topics for 1-on-1s are anything that is best discussed by the two of you in private. By preparing an agenda you can avoid showing up with nothing to talk about and reverting to topics like what did you work on and status updates. Having nothing to discuss is the #1 reason people dread their 1-on-1s. Instead focus on things like reviewing goals, discussing career development, seeing if there's anything on their mind that they need help with, delivering feedback and guidance, and talking about things outside of work to help develop a more personal relationship.

Lastly, make sure you schedule your 1-on-1s ahead of time so you both know it's coming and have the opportunity to prepare. Avoid rescheduling unless you really have to and never cancel without rescheduling. This is your employee's time with you and you need to show them that you value their time and needs. Don't show up late either!

2. Listen

Use your 1-on-1s as an opportunity to get direct feedback from your employees. This should be a time when they're doing most of the talking and you're focusing on listening. You can steer the conversation and interject for things that are really important but otherwise let them tell you what they're really thinking about. Don't feel like you're limited to your agenda either. Let the conversation go wherever it's headed organically. If you don't cover everything in this one, there's always next time.

Actively listening shows that you care and are there to help. It builds trust because your employees learn they can come to you with any issues. By limiting how much you say, it also encourages the employee to open up more in order to fill the conversation void. By doing this, you'll develop key insights that you can learn about no other way. You can learn how engaged they are, what issues the team is having that need your attention, and even if they're thinking about leaving. If an employee ever gives you notice without a heads up during a regular 1-on-1, it means you've failed to develop that relationship enough.

3. Act

Finally, it's important that you and your employee take action on the things you talked about. To do this it's helpful to assign action items after each 1-on-1 so you both know what you need to do. Failure to act will cause the trust you've been building to erode. What's the point in talking about something if it never gets fixed? Write it down so you don't forget it and make sure you address it. Plus, that feeling when you get to cross it off your todo list is the best!


These steps are the basic cycle for every successful 1-on-1. If you incorporate all three into your 1-on-1s, you will notice better conversations and a more productive, engaged team.






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