One to one meetings are one of the most underestimated tools by leaders. Used correctly, one to one meetings can be a key for successfully managing your team.

One to one meetings help a manager in achieving these objectives –

1. Identifying issues before they are out of control –

There is a difference between knowing things before they happen and knowing things after they happen. Knowing issues in early stage can give you chance to prevent them from becoming big problems. Timely meetings helps in early detection of issues like –  work life balance, difficulty in working with other team members, feeling stagnated due to no learning in the project, etc.

2. Relationship Building –

This meeting helps in knowing every team member individually. Having knowledge of their interests, disinterests, hobbies  helps a lot in making a personal connects with your team members. Remember people care for someone who cares about them. One-to-one meetings assure your team members that they are important for you and the project.

3. Expectation and Aspirations –

It is important to keep track of employee’s expectations and aspirations. Ignoring it will cause unhappy employee, which may even result in future resignations. Also this helps you in understanding if the employees aspirations are aligned towards helping the project/company in growing, or only towards the personal growth.

What to do in the meeting –

  1. Listen – As the writer of best selling book The Hard Thing About Hard Things, Ben Horowitz says -” The key to a good one-on-one meeting is the understanding that it is the employee’s meeting rather than the manager’s meeting”. Remember, this is not your meeting, it is employee’s meeting. So give them chance to speak. You are in the room to listen.
  2. Ask Questions – Ask questions which could help employee in opening up and discussing their key issues. Try asking open ended questions like –  what do you feel about the product/project you are working on, how do you find working with other team members, how do you feel about learning opportunities in the company, do you see areas where we can improve. You can also ask few non work questions – how do you commute to office, how much time it takes, where do you go for lunch, etc.
  3. Be The Authority – This meeting is not chit chat in the kitchen area. Make it very clear that whatever employee is sharing will be heard with seriousness and will not go unnoticed. One-to-one meeting is an official channel for the employees to communicate with the manager. Keep the meeting’s setup formal, such as always block date by sharing a meeting invite. Choose a place where discussion can be done without disturbance or fear of someone else will hear it (ex.- meeting room).
  4. Be Available even after meeting – One very important purpose of the meeting is to communicate that the manager is available and willing to listen to the employee. Therefore while ending the meeting remember to mention that – If something comes up after the meeting, employee must not hesitate in contacting the manager. Manager would plan a followup meeting to discuss any additional points.

Prepare for it –

It is advisable to do some preparation, before going into the meeting. Check following points –

  1. Any recent performance feedback which was given to the employee, usually it is a common thing that people want to discuss about.
  2. Current project he/she is working on.
  3. Any recent request raised with HR after last one-to-one. Ex. – Project Change Request, Onsite Request etc.
  4. Any recent feedback or complaint raised by the employee after last one-to-one.

Prepared or not prepared, doing meeting regularly is still better than not doing it.

As organizational psychologist Karlyn Borysenko says in her article – “If you regularly cancel your one-on-ones when things get busy, that means you won’t make time for them [employees]”.

I am sure, you do not want to be that manager, so use this tool effectively.