We all know it should be done – but are you having 1:1 meetings with your direct reports regularly? And when you do, are these meetings being used as a power for good, or for evil?

One-on-one meetings can be incredibly useful for developing relationships with members of your team, and to help promote personal development. At my current employer, it is typical to see these scheduled not less frequently than bi-weekly.

When 1:1’s are effective, they can allow you to:

  • Confirm objectives are in alignment between manager & employee;
  • Establish clarity around performance & role expectations;
  • Provide & receive feedback;
  • Increase engagement & motivation
  • And also may help prevent some undesired surprises…

However, these meetings can cause more damage than good, which is at risk when:

  • You come to the meeting distracted, and without any agenda;
  • You do all the talking – ideally you’ll speak 50% max. and < 25% might be even better;
  • You gossip, or allow others to gossip – guide the conversation to remain constructive;
  • The entire meeting focuses on details of project/work – this will happen, but should not be a standard agenda for this type of meeting;
  • Feedback you give is unbalanced, or even more dangerously, is not constructive or actionable;

Ultimately, it is important you come prepared for these meetings. What you do and how you set the stage directly impacts the quality of what your direct reports will share in these meetings. Here are some tips to consider:


… focus on coaching the individual’s performance (as that person develops their capabilities, they can realize the rewards in terms of recognition and potential career opportunities and in return do great things for your team and company)

… ask open questions in these meetings which show you care about the individual and their needs — questions as simple as asking what the person likes and dislikes about their current role, or asking what you as a manager could do to help them. I have a set of favorite questions that I can use for 1:1’s as needed and which I know will help start the conversation.

…. be a good listener! It can be difficult to stop talking, especially with quieter team members. Use active listening to check for understanding, watch for body language and tone of voice. Seek to understand what might not be getting said. And if you ask what might be a tough question, don’t be afraid of some silence – allow them time to think it through.


… using this meeting simply for progress updates. Individuals may wish to talk about their project status and related topics, but are hopefully getting sufficient interaction with you already during the work week to allow this meeting to focus more on the individual versus their project or work.

… outside distractions. The best option is to have your meetings in a neutral place, but if held in your office, ensure you lock your computer, close your door, don’t answer any phone calls, and generally give your complete and active attention to the conversation. This demonstrates respect, and will allow you both to better focus on your discussion.

What are your tips for having an effective 1:1 meeting? Do you have some favorite questions you like to ask to help generate a constructive dialogue?

Original article on linkedin

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