Effective 1-to-1 Meetings

I didn’t plan to have a 1:1 meeting with 80s rock icon Rick Springfield after a recent flight to Boston, but the chance encounter made my day. I left that brief interaction feeling enthusiastic, motivated by his perseverance, and connected to a creative world, I’m passionate about.

I mention that, because “feeling connected” should be one of the key objectives for our 1:1 encounters with others. We all know what it feels like to come out of a meeting and feel “blah”; connectedness is the juice that creates enthusiasm. Particularly when meeting with employees, the time may not result only in fun stories and creative discussion, but there is no reason these meetings can’t be motivating.

Why 1:1 Meetings Matter

You wouldn’t drive your car on an empty tank of gas. Likewise, you don’t want your direct report performing on an empty tank support-wise. It is tempting to see the 1:1 as a routine obligation with a checklist of status updates. Resist that temptation and build a meeting plan that edifies the employee as much (or more) than it informs you. Keep this proportion in mind:

• The meeting should be 80% employee driven
• The meeting should be 20% manager driven

Plan Your 1:1 Meeting Approach

Effective 1:1 meetings do not happen spontaneously (although they should have their spontaneous moments). Set aside a 30-minute block of time. Have your employee prepare the agenda and send it to you 24 hours in advance so each of you has time to prepare. You may need to empower your employee to take a role in setting up these meetings. Give them examples of the types of agenda items they could include: questions, celebrations, career discussions, etc.

Be Curious and Unconventional

Be genuinely inquisitive about what makes your employee tick. Consider non-traditional ways of conducting your 1:1’s. You can be like Steve Jobs and conduct walking meetings, grab coffee or play ping-pong.

If you are part of a virtual team, you can (and should) still do 1:1’s. Use video whenever possible. Also, keep your employees apprised of your whereabouts – you might be able to set up the occasional in-person meeting when you’re both traveling to the same location.

Ban “Everything’s Fine”

If you are stuck on ways to draw your employee out, consider one of these 101 Questions to ask in One on Ones. For example, the question “How could we improve the ways our team works together?” is highly likely to fend off an “everything’s fine” response.

When The Meeting Ends

Your employee may not feel as elated after your 1:1 meeting as I did after my chance encounter with Rick Springfield but they should leave feeling inspired and motivated to be part of your team, to give it their all on projects, and to pursue their career.

Human touch and creativity in 1:1 meetings pays off in ways that will make you both look and feel like rock stars.

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