How Successful Managers Run Effective One on One Meetings

Illustration of two office workers shaking hands

In fact, you’re probably too familiar with company wide meet ups, department get togethers and the like. We get it. Meetings often feel like a waste of time.

But what about one on one meetings?

Odds are you’re not currently using this approach. But maybe you should be. Participating managers report better team development and much higher employee engagement and productivity in those that work for them.

In this post we’ll explore all things one on one meeting related.

By the end, you’ll know exactly how to approach them, plan them, run them, and even a few tips that, when implemented, will make you the envy of all other one on one meeting users.

The Differences Between Group and One on One Meetings

Surprise! There are a few distinct differences between group and one on one meetings.

Stunned? Probably not. But these differences are important to note and understand. So let’s get to it.

Fewer People

Let’s start with the obvious difference: in one on one meetings, there are fewer people in the room. Groundbreaking, I know. But the number of warm bodies occupying the same office or boardroom at once can (and should) change the way you approach and run your get-togethers.

One on one meetings offer you the chance to really engage specific employees, build stronger relationships and rapport with them, and even give you the opportunity to mentor and/or train those working under you.

Group meetings don’t generally offer you this ability.

Different Purpose

Beyond just giving you the chance to spew your incredible wisdom all over your team members and mentor them to perfect employee status, one on one meetings generally have different purposes than their group meeting counterparts

A company or department meeting is typically geared towards updating the entire team on the progress being made, or brainstorming for future success. The one on one variety can definitely be used for this purpose as well.

But one on one meetings really show their value when management takes a backseat and lets team members be the focus.

By doing so, you’ll learn more about the people working for you, receive new ideas you may have never thought of before, and increase engagement levels in those who work under you.

Both Are Necessary

It’s worth noting that both group meetings and one on one get togethers are necessary in the workplace. One is not greater than the other. They both serve a purpose.

But for the rest of this article, we’ll focus on the one on one meeting and how you can make them more productive for you and your team.

Hosting a Successful One on One Meeting

Running a one on one meeting is actually pretty simple once you know how to set them up and host them properly. Lucky for you, that’s what we’ll be discussing in this section!

Hold on to your hats and glasses, it’s about to get wild…

#1 Plan It Like You Mean It

Every good meeting; be it a company wide kumbaya pow wow, department progress get together, or one on one huddle up, needs a plan. Without one, you’ll be a sailboat without wind; cast about on the cruel waves of meeting purgatory. So sad. And really unproductive.

Instead, come prepared. You know, like a professional.

Create an agenda for your meeting and write down everything you want or need to discuss with the person reporting to you. It may even be a good idea to allow them access to some kind of shared agenda so that they can add topics as well. Asana is a perfect tool for this.

#2 Track Your Time

Most managers neglect to track the time they spend in one on one meetings. But you’re not “most managers” are you? You’re a higher breed of managing professional.

The kind they’ll sing songs about long after you’ve hosted your last meeting.

When you track your time, even during quick one on one meetings, you’ll give yourself the tools to become more productive.

How? Because you can analyze the data afterward and then optimize your meeting process for improvement.

Did you schedule 30 minutes, but spent 45? Perhaps you tried to tackle too many topics or wasted too much time on small talk.

But you won’t know unless you track it!

#3 Leave With Action Items

Just like every meeting needs a plan, they each need a purpose as well. Why are you hosting a meeting with that particular individual?

Seriously, why?

You’re not just “shootin’ the breeze”, right?

So if you have a specific purpose for your one on one meeting, you should also make sure that the person you’re meeting with (and you if applicable) leaves with at least one action item to be completed.

Getting together with Kim to talk landing page optimization?

Make sure she knows exactly what copy needs to be tweaked and which images should be replaced by the time she sits back down at her desk.

This will ensure that every one on one meeting you hold has a productive outcome.

#4 The Written Rehash

Assigning action items is great, Good for you, buddy! But boss level bosses know that the written rehash is where it’s really at.

After every one on one meeting, send a quick email to the team member you just met with, rehashing the main things you went over.

That way you’ll both be on the same page and they’ll have something tangible to refer back to while they work.

Does this take a little extra time? Sure.

And I know time isn’t a luxury many of us have in abundance. But trust me, a few minutes spent rehashing the details on your one on one meeting will pay dividends on the back end.

Your Ticket to One on One Meeting Superstardom

You’ve now got a super solid four-step approach to crushing your next one on one meeting. I bet you’re feeling pretty good; a little dangerous, maybe?

Ease up there, turbo. There are still a few things you need to know before you reach true elite status in the world of one on one meetings.

#5 Keep It Casual

Your best bet is to probably keep each one on one meeting informal. In fact, you may even want to get out of the office. Go have coffee, eat lunch, take a walk. Whatever works for you and the team member you’re meeting with.

All one on one meetings should be professional and productive. But they don’t have to be stuffy or awkward. So be cool.

#6 Keep It Consistent

Communication is vital to a healthy workplace. Employees that feel like their voice is heard and their ideas and opinions are taken seriously tend to be much more engaged and happy, and work harder.

A one on one meeting is a great way to ensure the doors of communication are open! But only scheduling them once in a blue moon won’t actually help out anyone.

You need to be consistent. You need to commit to one on one meetings. Not every day, or even every week.

But by having each of your team members in for a personal chat a couple times a month, you’ll likely see communication soar, employee engagement skyrocket, and team productivity hit an all time high.

#7 Ask and Listen

Use the time you have in one on one meetings to ask your team members questions, not just dictate commands. I’m sure you have a few things you need them to get done or improve upon.

By all means, let them know. But give them time to talk also.

A few questions worth asking include:

1: Their Preferred Work Habits

When you understand the ways in which your team members work best, you can better support them and help increase team productivity.

Are the certain times of day when their energy lags?

Do they absolutely loathe specific tasks?

When you know the answers to these questions you can put your team in a better position to succeed.

2: Their Level of Work Happiness

Happy employees work harder, are more engaged and productive, and create positive office energy. That’s right, sweet workplace vibes, baby!

Now, you may be superman, but you can only do so much to improve employee happiness. You can’t control much of anything causing them discontent outside the office, for example.

But if there is something you can do — giving them more projects they enjoy, recognizing them for their accomplishments, etc. — do your best to accommodate.

3: Their Short and Long-Term Goals

Got goals? Of course, you do. And so do the people who work under you. So talk to them about what they’re hoping to achieve.

Both short and long-term goals are important.

Ask them how a specific project is going or which project they might like to tackle next (short-term goals).

Also, ask them where they see themselves in five years, or if there are any responsibilities they’d like to take on in order to move them closer to what they hope to achieve (long-term goals).

A manager that cares about his or her employee’s goals will generally have much more productive and engaged team members.

4: Improvements To Be Made

Uh oh, this is a tricky one. Asking your employees what they think of you, your management style, and the company in general may seem like an awkward position to put yourself in. It doesn’t have to be.

Make sure to ask your questions in a positive way. Ask:

  • Are there any ways I can make your job easier?
  • Is my involvement in your daily tasks enough? Too much?
  • Is there any aspect of my management style that puts you on edge?

Questions like these lead to conversation, and openly derogatory remarks can be easily avoided by all. Win!

Master the Art of One on One Meetings

A commitment to one on one meetings is worth it. And now you have the tools be a pro the next time you need to hold a more private get together!

Remember, successful one on one meetings require a different mindset than group gatherings.

They also require a pre-laid plan, time tracking, action items, and a post-meeting rehash email.

Really want to own the one on one meeting game?

Simply keep it casual, hold meetings on a regular basis and ask the right questions. Then listen and take note of the answers you receive!

What has been your experience with one on one meetings? Love them? Can’t stand them? Give us your opinions in the comments below!

August 17, 2018