How to hold productive one on one meetings

People & Culture
Systems & Operations

One on one meetings (1:1s) are one of the most important tools in your leadership toolbox.

These meetings are the ultimate opportunity to set a clear shared vision and expectations, increase engagement and develop your team.

For the best results, you should be holding a 30 minute 1:1 meeting weekly with each member of your team. It’s vital to do them regularly, as you need to provide feedback and course corrections as soon as possible.

The agenda

Like any meeting, have a clear agenda. This helps set clear context for the meeting and provides a starting point for discussion.

Your agenda should include:

  • Check-in
    • How are they doing? What’s on their mind?
  • Recognition of wins
    • Start with positive reinforcement to kick the meeting off on a positive note. Find out what accomplishments their proud of.
  • What’s holding them back
    • Find out what’s holding back their success and help them work through any issues.
  • Feedback
    • This needs to go in both directions. Feedback from you on their performance, but also back to you as a leader.
  • Professional development check-in
    • Review how they’re doing on their professional development plan.
    • Develop clear actions or discuss newly delegated action items.

Take a coaching approach

The best leaders are great coaches, and 1:1 meetings are the perfect venue to showcase that skill.

First, your team member should get 100% of your focus. This is their meeting. Use it to create a deeper connection by actively listening and reading their energy. Acute focus is one of the most important skills of a coach.

Second, ask thoughtful question. Help lead employees through a process of self-discovery, learning and thinking. The best lessons come when we have “aha moments” or figure something out for ourselves—give the person being coached the space to do just that.

Taking a coaching approach can create an important change in your team. It will build reflective employees allowing your team to shine, and you to take a step back.

Here’s some questions to get you started:

  1. What’s on your mind?
  2. If you say yes to that, what are you saying no to?
  3. What would you do in this situation?
  4. If it were easy, what would it look like?
  5. How would you make that happen?

Not sure how to start coaching?  Don’t worry, most managers need to learn this skill.  One of my favourite books to get started on coaching is The Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier.

Make it actionable

Like any meeting, you need to develop clear action to drive things forward.

This doesn’t mean telling your team member exactly what to do. Instead, have them come up with clear action items as you go. Help them think through what needs to be done, and by when, to achieve their goals.

Since accountability is part of your high-performance culture, follow up on action items as appropriate.

Change the environment

Imagine you walk into your boss’ office for your 1:1 meeting. She’s sitting behind her big desk, answering emails. She stops, looks at you and asks you to sit down while she finishes that last reply.

How does this feel? Does it create connection or allow for distraction?

disinterested boss looking at phone

But we’re all guilty of it.

The best think you can do when running 1:1 meetings is to completely change the environment. Remove any illusion of power and create a fresh dynamic. Here’s how:

  • Do your 1:1s in a different office or meeting room.
  • Sit without something between you (sit diagonally at the corner of the table so you can take notes).
  • Go for a walk. Getting out of the office completely changes the dynamic. The movement helps unlock creativity and reduces stress. Remember to bring a small notebook so you can pause and take notes or write down action items as you go.

Bonus: using Asana to manage 1:1 meetings

Tools such as Asana make tracking and managing action items a breeze. They promote accountability and allow for easy prioritization.

Here’s how I set up 1:1s in Asana:

  1. The person I’m meeting with creates a task in their “My tasks” called “1:1 meeting with Mike”.
    1. This makes the task private to them so no one else can see it.
  2. Set the due date to the meeting date. Make it recur based on your 1:1 schedule.
  3. Add me as a follower. This means I can see the task and get alerted if it changes.
  4. Add the standard agenda in the task description.
  5. As the week progresses, new agenda items can be added to the comments section.
  6. At the meeting, any notes/minutes are added to the comments.
  7. Action items can then be added to either their My tasks (for privacy) or to a team project.
  8. Mark the meeting as complete and Asana will automatically generate a new one.

Join the discussion on social media! We’d love to hear about how you hold 1:1 meetings.

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