One-on-One Meetings are the Employees Time With the Manager

As a boss you might be the one setting up one on ones with staff, but one-on-ones are actually your employee’s time with you. That’s why a good 121 meeting agenda starts with the employee’s priorities.

Tip: get your best practice one to one download with 121 meeting agenda here, including optional free training

Remember as the boss, you can get ahold of your employee at any time but your employee doesn't have the same rights even if you operate an open door policy. The One On One meeting is your employee’s time with you, not the other way around. and to make it work for your employee you always start with them.

They choose what to talk about. This includes work and personal. Because having time for a personal catch up right at the beginning is what builds your knowledge and connection with the employee. It's an investment that pays back. But obviously it's not just about chat - this is their time to give you status updates, keep you informed and ask you questions. A mistake that managers make is that they butt in. This makes the employee feel unheard and destroys your relationship. Your role is to listen and ask questions. that's one reason why Active Listening Skills are one of the Foundational Manager Skills.


Effective One-on-One Meetings Build Better Employer - Employee Relationships

You may be wondering why you need one on one meetings with staff. You’re communicating daily with your staff. And you get your status updates during team meetings. So what could you possibly have to talk about in a one-on-one?

Surely your valuable managerial time would be better spent on more pressing tasks?

There will of course always be a few individuals who are particularly introverted. Some people won’t engage in active conversation, but in general the opposite in fact holds true. The interesting thing about people is their need to tell you about themselves. A study conducted by the Psychology Department at Harvard, found that people like talking about themselves because it makes them feel good. It literally causes a “biochemical buzz” in the brain. That’s why we spend almost 40% of conversation talking about ourselves.

Personal details have a habit of becoming work details

You will undoubtedly have to endure stories about holidays, children, best friends and even ailing grandmothers. After your first one-on-one sessions you may even feel that you’ve had “information overload”. On the bright side, you will also have learnt some valuable information about your directs. And this will pave the way for improved rapport going forward. The reality is we can't divide work and personal lives 100% What happens in your employees live affects them in the office. If you are the boss who doesn't invest in getting to know your employees as people, you will get caught out when the inevitable personal crises overflow into work.

For this reason it is always a good idea to tentatively make provision for the first session to exceed the thirty minute limit, rather than scheduling directs back-to-back.

By the following week, your one-on-ones will be more relaxed. You’ll be able to initiate the conversation by asking how little Ricky’s swimming gala went and whether Granny Anne is feeling better. Showing genuine interest in your directs, creates a sense of trust. And you’ll find that they will be more willing to share information about themselves in future sessions.

Their own personal circumstances are important to your employees

So one-on-ones are the perfect forum for getting to know your direct reports. But you may be wondering why it’s so important to get to know each of them personally.

For the majority of people, managers included, family is more important to them than their jobs. You may already know this. But if you don’t take the time, and show an interest in finding out more about the families and personal lives of your direct reports, then ultimately you don’t truly know what’s important to them.

Different people are motivated by different things

Your employees are different which means that different things motivate different employees. Getting to know what is important to your employees also tells you:

  • What motivates them,
  • What they are good at,
  • Where their weak points are and,
  • How to best communicate with them.

Getting to know your employees and what they value is the path to more effective relationship with your directs. This makes them more motivated to put in the extra effort and go the extra mile for you. If you don’t invest in your relationship with your employees, your employees will be uninspired by the lack of interest and caring from you.

It's not enough to care - you have to show that you care

To show that you care about your employees it’s as simple as asking them what’s important to them, writing it down and keeping track of it. (That's why there's a place for that in the 121 template). Remember there's a difference between caring for your employees and them knowing that you care. You have to do genuine actions that provide them with genuine evidence that you care. One-on-one meetings will enable you to make a real connection with each person on your team.  You’ll become a problem solver, a coach, an advisor, an influencer, and even an enabler.  This is one meeting where you can make a real difference to the individuals in your team.

Effective One-on-One Meetings Keep Things Moving Forward

You know how things run behind? We get distracted, we forget. This happens to you and your employees and then next thing the important project is delayed and over budget. But regular one on ones keep you and your employees on time

Effective One-on-One Meetings with staff Keep Your Employees on Time

It keeps your employees on time because let's face it even the best employees do better with a little follow up and positive re-enforcement. And your tardy employees need follow up like oxygen.

P.S. Make sure your employees come prepared to their one-on-ones with you.. The free mini-course: One-on-Ones for Employees is heaped with best practice and will show your employees what to do in one-on-ones.

Effective One-on-One Meetings with staff Keep You on Time

And it's not just about keeping your employees on time, regular one on ones keep bosses on time too. Let's face up to the personal responsibility we have as a boss to keep things going forward. I admit that without some type of drumbeat to keep things moving forward I let my perfection tendencies get the better of deadlines. Not to mention my own distractions and shoddy memory - I mean who are we kidding, we are probably just as bad as our employees when it comes to deadlines. Regular One-on-Ones are how I keep myself on my toes

And you know it's true because: when I get an action from a meeting I have to admit that I hardly ever take care of it immediately. My excuse is because it seems like I spend my whole day rushing from one meeting to the next. And if you’re anything like me, far too many actions drift until there is a deadline. So you could say that meetings make work happen because there is a furious rush of activity clearing off actions before the next meeting! It’s not an ideal situation and I’m not proud to admit it, but I know it’s reality for a lot of people.

Super-User Tip:

If you’re a new manager who has never done one on one meetings with staff before or an experienced manager who wants to get better at one on ones then I invite you to try the complimentary mini-course: 3 Steps 2 Easy 1 on 1's. (Includes a one to one download with best practice 121 meeting agenda)

What I expect you'll find is that you already know some of the content on some type of level but maybe you're not putting it into practice.


Do you have any questions, comments or tips about one-on-one meetings between bosses and employees? Help the rest of us out by sharing in the comments below.