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​​​​​​​How To Run Effective One-on-One Meetings With Employees

Mar 19, 2021

Two young businesswomen having a meeting in the office sitting at a desk having a discussion with focus to a young woman wearing glassesAs a manager and leader, you know how important it is to check in with your employees on a regular basis. Yet for various reasons, too many managers avoid one-on-one meetings; for example, because they don't know how to structure them, they don't want or don't know how to have difficult conversations, or there simply isn't enough time.

Yet if you can make the time, one-on-one meetings give you the opportunity to ensure your team is focused on the work that matters most. One-on-one meetings also show your employees you care, you value them, and you're committed to helping them grow and develop—both personally and professionally. 

When handled well, one-on-one meetings with employees have the power to strengthen relationships and increase both productivity and engagement. All it takes is a modest amount of time and preparation, and a commitment to whatever meeting frequency you decide to set. The following insights will help you set yourself—and your team—up for success.

What is the purpose of a one-on-one meeting?

The No. 1 purpose of a one-on-one meeting is to nurture the relationship between you the manager and individual members of your team.

These meetings allow you to share information, assess employee engagement, set expectations, identify development opportunities, and minimize surprises—ultimately building even better relationships with each of your employees.

How often should you have one-on-one meetings?

The answer really depends on your company and the nature of your team; however, as a general rule, aim to meet one on one with your employees at least every other week, for 30 minutes to an hour.

If your company or team is experiencing a great deal of change, you may want to meet more often; for example, weekly. For new employees, you may even want to check in daily, however informally. 

What do you talk about in a one-on-one meeting?

Some things you may want to discuss in your one-on-one meetings with employees include:

  • Things that are going well
  • Questions on specific projects and milestones
  • Updates on employee objectives
  • Challenges or problems the employee is facing
  • Expectations and timelines
  • General or specific feedback
  • Finding out how the employee is doing overall, even outside of work

5 tips for one-on-one meetings

To help you think more strategically about how you are running your one-on-one meetings with employees, here are five tips:

1. Set recurring meetings

When employees know they have a standing meeting, they are less likely to bombard you with questions throughout the week or get stressed when they can't get the answers they need from you right away. Be careful not to cancel these meetings at the last minute or show up late—that is a sure way to leave your employees feeling frustrated. Naturally, the employee should be held to this same standard.  

2. Create an agenda

One-on-one meetings are a collaborative effort, and agenda items should reflect concerns and updates from both you and your employee. Set time to check in with your employee on a personal level, discuss work updates, share any important information, provide feedback, establish new goals or responsibilities, and offer support. But don't get too stuck on the agenda. Sometimes it's better to stay flexible, so that the meeting benefits you and the employee with whom you're meeting. 

3. Ask questions

Not every employee will feel comfortable sharing personal information or asking for help, so be sure to ask questions such as:

  • How are you feeling, both personally and professionally?
  • What is going well in your role?
  • What challenges are you facing?
  • What else would be helpful for me to know?

Then take time to listen, of course, to the responses. That is where true connection happens.

4. Discuss expectations and provide feedback

One-on-one meetings are the perfect time to both recognize wins and hold the employee accountable. You'll want to set clear expectations of what excellence looks like, follow up consistently, and provide feedback immediately following a project or event—rather than waiting until the next performance review.

5. Take notes and follow up

Notes from one-on-one meetings can help you assess employee performance and development over time. Be sure to take notes on important action items, decisions, and discussion points throughout the meeting.

Following up on discussions from prior meetings establishes productive feedback loops and shows your employee you care. When the meeting is over, make it a point to end on a high note and thank the employee for their time. 

Could your meetings be more effective?

I often hear professionals, including senior managers, expressing frustration about meetings where nothing gets done, and how draining and impractical this is. Often this is symptomatic of other issues within their company culture. 

Does this sound like you? If you're ready and willing to invest in your own leadership and development, I invite you to reach out to me today. Together we'll determine how I can best help you, your team and your company. 

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