Down To One

Features - Professional Development

When it comes to meeting with subordinates, one doesn’t have to be the loneliest number. Learn how to make one-on-one meetings highly productive.

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April 29, 2020

It’s easy for managers to compile a long list of reasons not to meet with subordinates. However, the volume of reasons does not outweigh the value of a regularly scheduled tête-à-tête with a direct report. Over time, managers and employees can enjoy the many benefits from meeting one on one.

Visible appreciation. Time is currency. If managers carve out time for their people and are prepared when they meet, they show they value their direct reports.

Better thinking. One-on-one meetings give managers and employees space to step away from the urgent and immediate and to think strategically about work, goals, and development opportunities.

Stronger results. Accountability tends to improve when people have an opportunity or a requirement to report on their progress.

The Perfect One-on-One

Once you’ve accepted the value of one-on-one meetings, the next step is to execute them in a way that works for you and your employees. Good one-on-one meetings are not one-size-fits-all activities. That said, there are a few guidelines that can make a one-on-one meeting successful.

Pick a schedule and stick to it. One-on-ones shouldn’t regularly disappear from the calendar simply because something else suddenly comes up.

Choose a frequency that makes sense. For some people meeting once a month may be enough. For others, meeting weekly may be more appropriate. Every relationship is different. Furthermore, circumstances evolve. Depending on what’s happening inside and outside of the organization, an employee’s needs could change drastically. Meeting frequency should be looked at from time to time. If the rate of meetings is correct, managers and employees should not routinely find themselves with no reason to meet.

Follow a written agenda. Well-run one-on-one meetings are not free-for-all conversations. They follow an agenda just as like other meeting. A one-on-one agenda might include topics like current projects, progress on development goals, challenges, and so forth. Put employees in the driver’s seat by having them manage and document the agenda. While you create the initial agenda format, your employees should take ownership of the documents associated with their meetings.

Reevaluate From Time-to-Time

Like anything, one-on-one meetings can get stale. It’s important to look at the format and frequency from time to time and to solicit feedback regarding what’s working and what isn’t.

If you’ve fallen out of the habit of holding regular one-on-one meetings or if you’re not getting all you could from them, now is the time to take another look. After all, can you afford not to?

Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm.