1-on-1 meetings are a key component of a successful ongoing feedback model. They give managers and their direct reports uninterrupted time to discuss projects, review performance, remove blockers, and more. It also provides an opportunity for managers to get to know their employees on a more personal level. These weekly or biweekly meetings allow managers and their employees to discuss career aspirations, interests, and professional growth opportunities—an important way to engage employees and invest in their long-term happiness at your company.
As you might have noticed, that’s quite a long list of items to address in a quick 15 or 30-minute meeting. And while these meetings can help your employees build relationships and feel valued, they can also leave workers feeling bitter and unappreciated when rushed or not taken seriously. While 1-on-1s are supposed to be more informal check-ins, they do need some structure to ensure they’re a success. To help you train managers at your company on how to lead engaging and valuable 1-on-1 meetings, we’ve put together a brief guide of common shortcomings that can ruin meetings and best practices that can make them.
Here’s why these informal check-ins are so important and what managers should avoid in order to lead successful one-on-one meetings:
The benefits of 1-on-1 meetings
1-on-1 meetings will be different for every company, every manager, and every direct report. But while each approach will be unique, the goal of these meetings should all be the same—to maintain open communication between a manager and their direct reports. But 1-on-1 meetings do more than just that, here’s a look at the other benefits these weekly meetings award teams:
Improve performance: Bi-annual or annual performance reviews are often too little, too late. Weekly or bi-weekly check-ins allow managers to stay on top of employee productivity and ensure team goals will be met.
Drive development: Eighty-seven percent of millennials value growth and professional development in a job and 1-on-1 meetings are the perfect time to discuss personal and professional growth. Managers should use the time to discuss direct reports’ career aspirations, interests, professional development opportunities, and passion projects. By showing interest in and investing in your employees’ growth, they will not only be happier and work harder at work, odds are they will stick around with your company longer too.
Build trust: 1-on-1 meetings give employees an opportunity to get personal. Direct reports and managers can get to know one another and build lasting relationships. Studies show when employees feel trusted at work, they feel more confident and perform at a higher level. Employees with a good relationship with their manager might also be more forthcoming about issues in their personal lives that might be affecting performance, which when properly addressed, can improve employee loyalty and engagement.
Increase team agility: 1-on-1 meetings give employees an opportunity to identify and address blockers, challenges, and issues with their managers as they arise. They also give teams an opportunity to pivot if goals or objectives become outdated, so teams can remain agile and adapt as business needs change.
For tips on leading for more meaningful and productive 1-on-1s,, read our new guide “A guide to 1-on-1 meetings.”
3 common pitfalls of 1-on-1 meetings
While there are many benefits of 1-on-1 meetings, it’s no small feat to run a successful one. Just because they’re casual check-ins doesn’t mean managers and direct reports can just show up and hope for the best. That’s one sure way these meetings will fail and be a waste of time for all parties involved. In order to better streamline your and your employees’ 1-on-1 meetings, here’s a list of behaviors that can completely derail a one-on-one meeting:
Skipping meetings: 1-on-1 meetings are crucial to keeping managers and direct reports on the same page. If either party skips meetings, it implies they don’t appreciate the other person’s time and could hurt the manager/direct report relationship. Both parties need to make the1-on-1 a priority or set a time and cadence that works with both of their schedules and needs.
Rushing through feedback: Even in short meetings, managers should provide thoughtful feedback and deliver it in a constructive manner. Make sure your managers are familiar with how best to deliver and receive feedback, so every employee gets an equal opportunity to improve their work.
Not enough listening: While managers should be engaged and ask great questions during 1-on-1s, ultimately, they should let direct reports take the lead. This will allow them to steer the conversation and bring up subjects like issues they’re having at work or at home, as well as their career aspirations and professional interests.
Putting this into practice
When it comes to leading a 1-on-1 meeting, you get out of them what you put into them. When done right, they can engage employees, keep them on track to meet performance goals, develop their professional skills, and help resolve small issues as they arise. When done wrong, they can leave employees feeling frustrated and undervalued. For even more tips on how to lead a successful 1-on-1 meeting, read our new guide “A guide to 1-on-1 meetings.”
It’s also important to remember that 1-on-1meetings are part of a larger picture of performance and engagement. They are an important touchpoint in the continuous cycle of driving engagement and better performance.
Culture Amp can help you and your organization have more impactful 1-on-1s with our new feature, 1-on-1 Conversations. It’s designed to help managers and employees have more meaningful 1-on-1s, focusing on shared ownership and reflection on the whole employee experience.