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One on One Meetings: Actionable Techniques and Best Practices

There is a vital productivity tool that many managers and team leaders avoid or overlook. Elizabeth Grace Saunders, the author of How to Invest Your Time Like Money, has called them “one of the most important productivity tools you have as a manager.” They’ve been called “the Manager’s Swiss Army Knife” because of how many problems they can fix. On top of that, they can help managers address each and every factor affecting productivity identified in a Gallup 2010 study, including the quality of coworker relationships and whether or not employees feel they have all the right tools to help them do their jobs. So what is this magical productivity tool? It’s the one on one meeting.

 

Part 1

What are one on one meetings, and why should we use them?

One on one meetings can take many forms, but at their simplest, they are a regular face-to-face meeting between a team leader or manager and every one of their direct reports. This may sound so simple as to be almost redundant in today’s world.
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After all, modern companies have countless ways to communicate, including team meetings, communication apps, emails, and conference calls. But one on one meetings continue to provide a number of unique benefits over other forms of communication, including helping you to:

  • Gather vital information:

    We’ve known for years that nonverbal communication such as body language and tonal cues are vital sources of information on mood, engagement, well-being and potential conflict. However, it’s difficult to gather this information over email or during conference calls.
    .
    And although in-person team meetings provide the opportunity to see your team face-to-face, it may be difficult for you to spend time analyzing how each member is going while also managing a packed agenda. In contrast, the main agenda of one on one meetings is to check in with your employees, give them the opportunity to volunteer information and provide them with support.

  • Address minor problems before they become major problems:

    One on one meetings are often the only way employees feel comfortable raising minor issues. Even if your company has a warm, friendly culture and you have a great open-door policy, team members can feel uncomfortable interrupting your schedule or sending an email to report a minor problem.
    .
    That’s why regularly scheduled one on one meetings are the best opportunity for employees to raise these issues, helping your company solve small problems before they become bigger ones, and improving your efficiency and results.

  • Build rapport, performance, and engagement:

    Keeping one on one meetings informal help provide an open environment where employees feel they can freely communicate. For shyer or quieter employees, it’s also a more comfortable environment than team meetings to offer thoughts or suggestions. That’s why one on one meetings are the perfect venue to brainstorm ideas and possible solutions to personal and team challenges and to ask for honest feedback.
    .
    This, in turn, helps to improve your team members’ performance and engagement, because they know they can voice their concerns and management will act on them, and therefore feel supported and motivated.

Part 2 

What should you talk about in your one on one meetings?

While experts recommend your 1-on-1 meetings be generally informal, to encourage honest and open communication, people are often confused about what to talk about in one on one meetings. Here are best practices:

  1. Short-term goals:

    One on one meetings are perfect for helping your team members to plan their short-term goals. You can also use short-term goals as a focal point for how they’re progressing in their current project and if they need any assistance. Sample one on one meeting questions could include:

    A)
    How’s the project? Do you need any help?
    B) Is there anything about the project that you want to clarify?
    C) If you could choose, what other projects would you like to work on?

  2.  Long-term goals:

    The regularity of one on one meetings means you can use them to track your employees’ progress on their long-term goals and help them when they need to realign or change tack. The informal nature of one on one meetings also makes them a good opportunity to discuss your employees’ dreams and aspirations and how they plan to get there. One on one meeting sample questions could include:

    .
    A)
    Where do you see yourself in 5, 10, or 20 years’ time?
    B) How do you feel about your current progress? What challenges are you facing? Is there a way I can help support you?
    C) How does what you do in our company contribute to your future goals? How would you like your work to fulfill your goals?

  3. Improving the company:

    Most employees will have ideas on how to improve your company or your team’s performance. Take advantage of the privacy of one-on-one meetings to invite them to share these suggestions and discuss how they can help to implement these improvements. Sample one-on-one meeting questions could include:

    .
    A)
    What are the things you like best about our company? What are the things you like the least? Why?
    B) How do you think we could best reach our company’s goals?
    C) If you could change one thing about our company, what would you change?

  4. Work attitudes and habits:

    You can also use one on one meetings to gain better insight into how your team members work, so you can best manage their assignments. Sample one on one meeting questions could include:

    .
    A)
    When do you feel you are most productive? In the morning, afternoon or evening?
    B) What do you do to motivate yourself when you feel low?
    C) What parts of your job do you like most? Why?

  5. Team relationships:

    While one on one meetings are a great way to deepen your working relationship with your employees, they’re also a good opportunity to check in with each team member on how they’re working with the rest of the team. One on one meeting sample questions could include:

    .
    A)
    How do you feel the team is going?
    B) If you could change one thing about the team, what would you change?
    C) Is there anyone in the team that you look up to? Who would you like to learn more from?

Part 3

5 Actionable Techniques

It’s clear that one on one meetings can be incredibly valuable, both for you as a team leader and for each individual team member. With that in mind, here are 5 actionable techniques you can use for your next one on one meeting:

  1. Schedule regular one on one meetings:

    Whether a one on one meeting is weekly, fortnightly, or monthly, having a recurring meeting is incredibly important. It’s too easy in our busy work lives to think we can schedule a one-on-one meeting once the team finishes that big project or once you have a bit more spare time, and then have months pass and nothing happen.
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    It’s also easy to keep postponing regular one-on-one meetings until they are so infrequent that it’s difficult to manage your team member’s progress and help support them. Not only does this mean you lose out on the main benefits of one-on-one meetings, it also sends the message to your team that they’re not worthy of your time. So send out regular or automated one-one-one meeting invites and stick to them.

  2. Tailor the one on one meeting agenda to each employee:

    To make the most out of your one-on-one meetings, you’ll want to tailor the general agenda to each team member. For example, when a new employee has joined your team or company, you may wish to schedule weekly one-on-one meetings in the first few months focusing on orientation, knowledge, and helping them settle in. But for more seasoned employees, fortnightly or monthly meetings may be more appropriate, with a focus on long-term goals or challenges.

  3. Talk less:

    Much of the value derived from one-on-one meetings comes from providing the opportunity for your employee to communicate with you. That means that while you should set broad goals for your one-on-one meetings tailored to each employee, you should give your team member the chance to speak and direct the meeting.
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    That way you have the chance to actively listen and learn new information on how you can help and support them. When you do speak, focus on asking open-ended questions to draw out how your employee’s feeling and anything they may need.

  4. Keep it informal:

    You might consider doing a walking meeting or meeting over coffee, rather than holding the one-on-one meeting in the boardroom. This will help your employee to feel more comfortable speaking about their concerns and also receiving constructive criticism and feedback. It also helps if you have already encouraged a culture of giving and receiving open and honest feedback.
    .
    One way to do this is by implementing daily and weekly updates, so your employees become used to openly discussing their concerns and receiving constructive criticism and mentoring support.

  5. Record any action points:

    Write down any agreed action points during or directly after the meeting so that you can both monitor progress. This also provides a handy checklist to refer to during your next one on one meeting.

 

While open-door policies are fantastic, one on one meetings go a step further by ensuring that a regular chance for direct communication is actively scheduled and respected. So if you haven’t already, add the one on one meeting to your management toolbox!

Here is how status.net helps:
Solution 1 – Use regular status reports with the option to share feedback.
Solution 2 – Implement meeting summaries and use the summary from the previous meeting as a base for the next meeting.

How to use status.net for status reports:

  1. Easily implement daily or weekly status reports for your team members by creating a status feed with questions like “What did you do today?” or “How did you contribute to the team’s goals this week?” and get regular answers on autopilot.
  2. Peace of mind: No one forgets to fill in their status reports because it sends timely reminders according to the recurrence schedule you chose.
  3. Increase workplace satisfaction by improving transparency: Each status update has a separate section for comments, which is used by team members to clarify information, including upcoming goals, and by leaders to provide feedback and coordinate better without micromanagement.
  4. Use status reports for future reference and decrease time and efforts spent on monthly, quarterly, and yearly reporting thanks to powerful filtering and export features.
  5. Optionally, enrich reports with the latest updates automatically added from web apps your team uses (such as project management tools, version control systems, support systems, financial applications, CRM, etc.) by connecting these apps to your status feed.
  6. Spend less time on meetings by making them more productive because everyone is on the same page at all times.
  7. Sharing: Status reports can be either

    — exported to files and printed, or sent by email;
    — shared with manager online (in this case, an email with the full text of the status report will be sent automatically); or
    — shared online as company-wide or team-wide status reports, i.e., all team members share their progress with each other.

How to configure status reporting:

Step 1:

  • Create a “One-on-One Meeting Agenda” feed and set up a recurrence.
  • Configure who will write and read reports by choosing the “Participants” tab and then clicking the “Cog” button near “Feed Participants” title.
how to create one on one meeting agenda status feed

Options:

  • Set the status feed as “Team-wide” if you want all team members to view each other’s status reports.
  • Alternatively, you can allow access to status reports for certain participants only (such as yourself if you’re a team lead). In this case, turn “Team-wide” mode OFF and restrict viewing by unchecking “View” properties for other participants. Team members with the “View” checkbox unchecked will only be able to view their own status reports.
  • If you’re a manager and you don’t plan to share your status reports with your team, uncheck “Update” for yourself – in this case, you won’t receive reminders to fill in this status report.
  • The Recurrence setting configures how often participants receive email reminders to fill in their status reports. This feature is optional and can be turned off.
  • You can add, remove, and assign new team members at any time.

Step 2: The text of the status update should be added to the “Update” field of status feed.

how to add an update to status report

Data such as the report type, date and name will be added automatically.

As soon as a new status report is added, participants with “View” rights can to view it in real time when they log in to their accounts. They will also automatically receive emails with the full text of status reports.

Step 3 (Optional): Generate a report and export it to PDF.
(Skip this step if you share status reports online and don’t print them.)

  • Choose dates
  • Choose people
  • Click “File” button
  • Choose type of report and click “Generate Report
how to export your one on one meeting agenda report

Done!

screenshot of final one on one meeting agenda report

 

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One-on-One Meeting Summaries

In some cases, one-on-one meeting summaries which list the results of the meeting and an actionable plan need to be shared after the meeting. Here is how to use status.net for one-on-one meeting summaries:

  1. Make meeting summaries instantly available to the meeting participants and save for future reference.
  2. Peace of mind: Recurrence can be configured for regular meetings. In this case, assigned persons will receive timely automatic reminders to write the latest meeting summary.
  3. Option to have post-meeting comments in context: Each meeting summary has its own section for comments.

How to configure meeting summaries:

Step 1:

  • Create a “One-on-One Meeting Summary” feed and set up a recurrence (for regular meetings, set how often you usually hold meetings; for irregular meetings you can leave this setting blank).
  • Configure access: Turn “Team-wide” mode OFF and invite viewers; restrict viewing by uncheckingView” properties for other team members. In this case, you can view and manage all one-on-one meeting summaries in one feed for all your team members, but each of them will only be able to view his/her own one-on-one meeting summary.
  • Leave the “Update” checkbox ON for those who are assigned to update meeting agendas. They will receive timely reminders to write the meeting summary, according to the “Recurrence” setting you configured in Step 1. The Recurrence feature is optional and can be turned off.
  • If you don’t plan to write meeting summaries yourself, uncheck “Update” for yourself – in this case, you won’t receive reminders to create the upcoming meeting agenda.
  • You can add, remove, and assign participants at any time.
how to create one on one meeting summary status feed

Step 2: The meeting summary should be added to the “Update” field of the feed.

how to add an update to status report
  • Mention those people who you want to take action or pay attention by using @ before their names. These people will receive personal notifications on their status accounts and by email.
how to use mention status feed

Info such as the date and the name of the person who wrote that meeting summary will be added automatically.

As soon as a new meeting summary is added, participants with “View” rights can view it in real time when they log in to their accounts. They will also automatically receive an email with the full text of the latest meeting summary.

Step 3 (Optional): Generate a meeting summary report and export it to PDF.
(Skip this step if you share meeting summaries online and don’t print them.)

  • Choose date range
  • Click “file” button
  • Choose type of report (“By Date” – to sort meeting summaries by date) and click “Generate Report
how to export your one on one meeting summary report

Done!

screenshot of final one on one meeting summary report

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