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10 Tips for Better One on One Meetings [+ Examples]

image representing 10 Tips for Better One on One Meetings [+ Examples]

One on one meetings are a powerful tool for monitoring performance, building strong relationships, and boosting motivation—however, managers often dread conducting these 1:1 meetings or avoid doing them all together. So, how can you take the stress out of 1:1 meetings? Get ready to find out!

What Are One on One Meetings?

One on one meetings are dedicated, recurring time on the calendar for an open-ended conversation between a manager and a direct report. Unlike status reports or tactical meetings about a particular project, one on one meetings are designed to be a place for coaching and mentorship.

Why Are One-on-One Meetings Valuable?

The manager and direct report relationship is fundamental to the success of your entire organization! Why? Each team and department within your organization is built on interpersonal and professional relationships—and any good relationship is built on trust. Without this trust, both employee performance and employee engagement will suffer.

Nearly all professionals surveyed in a recent study said that having trust in their bosses was essential to workplace satisfaction. However, while 80% of managers said they think they’re transparent with their teams, only 55% of employees agreed. Even worse, only 53% of employees felt like their managers genuinely cared about their well-being 😲. What could be to blame for this gap?

A lack of open, authentic communication—communication that could easily be gained through effective one on one meetings. One on one meetings are meant to be a safe, open forum for communication from manager to employee, as well as from employee to manager. When employees are informed, engaged, and feel like their voice 🗣️ is truly being heard, workplace involvement and morale will increase, along with a sense of ownership and accountability that results in higher job satisfaction and boosted productivity!

What Do You Talk About in a One on One Meeting?

As a manager, you may be wondering: “What should I actually be talking about in my 1:1 meetings?” The purpose of these meetings is to:

  • Uncover current levels of employee engagement, morale, stress, job satisfaction, etc.
  • Set both short and long-term employee performance and career development goals
  • Track ongoing progress towards these employee performance and career development goals
  • Uncover if there are any personal or professional obstacles the employee is facing that are getting in the way of achieving these goals, and determine how they could be removed 
  • Discuss any specific issues with employee performance or attitude
  • Provide constructive criticism, feedback, and coaching
  • Build a rapport that enhances the manager and employee relationship 

One on One Meeting Questions You Should Ask

You should always try to ask open-ended questions during your 1:1 meetings. This gets the conversation flowing and turns the meeting into a two-way discussion rather than a series of “yes” and “no” responses that don’t give you any actual insight.

You’ll want to ask a good mix of questions so you can get to know your employees on a more personal level to build rapport and trust, talk about job performance and career development, give and receive feedback, find areas for improvements, and check in on their overall happiness 😃 and job satisfaction. Just some ideas for one on one meeting questions you could try include:

  • How do you view yourself in your role?
  • What are you most excited about when it comes to your job? What are you most worried or stressed about when it comes to your job?
  • How do you feel your work/life balance is right now? How could it be improved?
  • What are your long-term career development goals? What skills do you need to achieve them, and how can you actually acquire those skills?
  • What obstacles do you foresee having to overcome to achieve these goals? How do you think you can do so?
  • Do you feel challenged at work? Are you learning new things?
  • What do you think are the key skills for your role? How would you rate yourself for each of them?
  • Are there any events or training you’d like to attend to help you grow your skills?
  • Do you feel you’re getting enough feedback? Why or why not?
  • What’s a recent situation at work you wish you had handled differently? What would you have changed?
  • How can I better support you as your manager?
  • What have your past managers done that you’ve liked or disliked?

How Do You Run a Great One on One Meeting?

One on one meetings are a powerful and valuable tool for monitoring performance that can improve your overall business performance management strategy. But, it can be overwhelming for any single manager to schedule, run, and follow up on meetings with all the members of their team.

But don’t worry—while it isn’t always easy, it certainly isn’t impossible. Below are some of our top tips for conducting better one on one meetings!

10 Tips for Better One on One Meetings

1. Have a Clear One on One Meeting Agenda

If you just show up and wing your one on one meetings week after week, what kind of message does that send to your employees? They may think it says that you don’t think putting time or effort into these meetings is important. So, you should always come prepared with clear, organized one on one meeting agendas.

2. Leverage Data

When discussing employee performance during one on one meetings, simply saying an employee is doing well or poorly isn’t helpful. It’s important to use data insights 📊 from direct reports to benchmark each employee’s progress when it comes to meeting their job role expectations and goals. This way, if they aren’t on target, you can give specific, constructive feedback and create a performance improvement plan that will help move the needle. We know a thing or two about KPIs, having founded BrightGauge Software in 2010 ( a SaaS Business Intelligence product) 👊.

3. Keep it Consistent

When it comes to conducting effective one on one meetings, consistency is key. So, it’s important to keep your one on one meetings on a recurring, regular schedule 📅. This enhances accountability because if your employees know when you’ll be checking in on their progress, they can plan their schedules appropriately. Plus, a consistent meeting structure lets both you and your employees to know exactly what to expect each time, meaning you can both prep and prepare accordingly.

4. Be Present

Constantly glancing at your phone while your employee is talking or having a ding from your email inbox go off every five minutes is distracting, and makes your employee feel like you're not really listening to what they have to say. So, ditch the distractions 🔕 and stay focused during one to one meetings by keeping unnecessary electronics and notifications turned off.

5. Have an Open Conversation About Career Development

Did you know that a lack of future opportunities for career development is a key driver of employee attrition and cited as a dissatisfying factor in their job by 40% of departing employees? Employees look to their manager to help them build a future career path, identify areas for improvement, and acquire new skills. So, it’s important that you’re asking the right questions about career development and working with each employee to ensure not only that you’re laying out a future career path, but that you’re equipping them with the tools necessary to get there.

6. Listen, Then Speak

Use active listening techniques to repeat what your employee is saying back to them. For example, “So, what I’m hearing is that you feel you can’t complete the next step of this project without support from Jane in marketing. Did I get that right? How can we get you that support you need?” This nips any chances of miscommunication in the bud, plus shows your employees you’re listening to what they’re saying and are actually understanding it.

7. Take Thorough Notes

Throughout your one on one meetings, you want to make sure you’re taking notes 📝 so you don’t forget anything that was said. This can also help keep both you and your employees accountable because it gives a verifiable, written record of what was discussed that can then be referred back to later. Getting audio recordings (with employee knowledge and permission) can also help with your notes.

8. Get Personal

One on one meetings aren’t just to discuss employee performance. They should also help to build strong 💪 manager and employee relationships! Be sure to check in on a personal level as well as a professional one so that your employees feel cared for and seen as actual human beings—rather than just “employee #4” on your list of one on one meetings you have to get through that week.

9. Give Positive Feedback

While one on one meetings are a great time to discuss issues and give performance reviews, it shouldn’t all be about negative feedback and constructive criticism. It’s also an ideal forum to recognize wins and make your employees feel valued and appreciated for their contributions. This can also be beneficial for your business—companies that provide ample employee recognition have 31% lower voluntary turnover rates than companies who do not.

10. Leave with Action Items

Just discussing what is going well and what isn’t won’t be enough—if you want your employees to actually grow, develop, and improve, you need to actually take action. Coming out of your one on one meetings, it’s important to set clear expectations and timelines for next steps, then be sure to actually follow up on them.

Conduct More Effective One on One Meetings with Strety!

Strety takes the stress out of arranging and following up on 1:1 meetings by automating the process. On our all-in-one employee management platform, you'll be able to:

  • Schedule one on one meetings with ease
  • Collaborate on one on one meeting agenda items so your employees can add what they'd like to discuss, too
  • Add comments and take notes within the product before or during the meeting
  • Assign action items for the employee to follow up on after

By transforming the way you conduct your one on one meetings with Strety, you can lead a high performing team with confidence! Ready to take the stress out of 1:1 meetings? Contact us today!

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