It’s so easy to slip into the day-to-day nature of overseeing team tasks and answering questions as managers, isn’t it? We’re busy. They’re busy. Checklists are long. Zoom schedules are full. But with remote work and recruitment, when was the last time you checked in to see how employees on your team are really doing? Do you know what roadblocks they’re facing or if they’re motivated by the work they’re doing? Do you know if they’re maxed out? Most importantly, do you know if they have one foot out the door? If you don’t know the answer to those questions, we’re here to help. The first step? Upping your 1:1 game.
1:1 meetings can sometimes get a bad rap. But when used properly, they can be true game changers. I’m talking about creating greater employee engagement, enhanced motivation, higher self-esteem and productivity and better employee retention for your in-person or remote team culture. But more importantly, creating a trusting relationship, foundation of transparency and an opportunity for coaching and development. Sound too good to be true? I promise it’s not. If you take these six tips to heart, you’ll be on your way. Let’s talk about how 1 on 1 meetings can get you there.
1. Establish a recurring meeting
Many managers assume if they check in regularly with their employees that formal 1:1s aren’t necessary. Au, contraire. While you may have numerous interactions throughout the week, each employee deserves a time slot dedicated just to them. A regular meeting not only provides a safe space for goal setting, raising concerns, and sharing career aspirations, but also creates an expected time during which they can do so. The steady cadence of a weekly meeting reinforces your commitment to them, to their development, and to their wellbeing. After all, every employee wants a manager who’s in their corner. Quick caveat: if you’ve never held 1:1s with employees on your team before, you’ll want to tell them first before you schedule anything. Ask them what frequency suits them best (we recommend weekly or bi-weekly) and let them know what to expect. No one likes a surprise calendar invite from their manager. 😊
2. Never skip a 1:1
Regardless of the reason, skipping a regularly scheduled check-in sends alarm bells to an employee — and if done frequently, can seed frustration. Think of it in reverse – how do you feel when someone cancels a meeting you were looking forward to? Not great… So try to keep to your commitment and in turn, build trust with your employee. We know things come up — kids get sick, meetings run over, fire drills take priority, etc. Just make it a point to reschedule within the same week if possible.
3. Senior leaders deserve 1:1s too
Senior leaders don’t always get a lot of time or attention from their executive level managers on a regular basis. Sometimes, it’s the nature of the job. But bear in mind that creating a healthy culture starts at the top, so 1:1s should occur in the higher ranks as well. It’s a perfect time to share feedback, align on goals, establish new ones and set the precedent that 1:1s are part of being a manager.
4. Give it some structure
It’s easy to let a run through of “to-do” items take over 1:1s. So be sure to set a meeting agenda and try to stick to it. We recommend a three-part effective meeting:
1) Check-in. See how they’re doing, both professionally and personally. Employees want to know you care. This will also give you insight into things that may be impacting them at work and how you can help.
2) Updates. Let them share what’s top of mind. Whether it be a roadblock they need help with or something they want to celebrate, let them lead the conversation. Then, take the opportunity to connect them with the larger picture and what’s happening in other parts of the organization.
3) Development check. This piece of the agenda can look different each time with rotating topics. It can be a great opportunity to review short or long term goals from time to time, discuss work they want to be part of and provide opportunities in alignment with their interests, and to identify challenges and opportunities. It’s also a wonderful time to provide positive and constructive feedback on their performance, as well as the chance to ask for theirs too.
5. Come with talking points
While it’s optimal for your employees to drive discussions, you should always have a conversation starter list in your back pocket. Below are a few we love to use.
- What time of day do you feel most productive? What changes could be made so you can optimize your day?
- What are your biggest obstacles right now? What can we do to chip away at them?
- If you had a magic wand, what would make your daily work life better? How can we make it happen?
- What work inspires you most? Let’s talk about how to increase your work in that area.
- What kind of work do you want to be doing? Let’s talk about ways to match you with new opportunities in that space.
- Do you have any ideas for how we can all work better as a team? Let’s create an action item around that.
- What support do you need? Let’s figure out ways to get it for you.
These conversation starters and meeting questions are designed to provoke a thoughtful discussion about aspects of work that are often overlooked. If used properly, they can help you understand your employee and how they work a little bit better. This means you’ll be able to lead them more effectively. And… they can also help you deliver the ever-elusive “development” employees are looking for.
6. Always end with a question
“What else is on your mind?” So simple, but so powerful. This leaves the door wide open for your employee to share or ask anything else that’s on their mind that you haven’t already covered. Providing that last opportunity at the end of each 1:1 creates that open door policy we’re all after.
A regular cadence of healthy 1 on 1 meetings will ultimately create a strong manager-employee connection. They also help to build stronger, more resilient teams. They will give insight you otherwise wouldn’t glean, and they’ll give you the chance to provide employees on your team with the coaching and development they’re looking for. You can’t go wrong!