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How to Make the Most of Your 1:1 Meetings with Employees


Frank Blecha
Frank Blecha
3 min read
How to Make the Most of Your 1:1 Meetings with Employees

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Having 1:1s is the most essential tool in your toolkit for building a good working relationship with your employees. It’s extremely easy for managers to overlook this meeting as they can think it doesn’t help the delivery. But these meetings are about developing an understanding of your team and building a good working rapport, which is always valuable.

You may not get along with everyone on your team (work is work, not a family), but even with the folks you don’t love spending a lot of time with, you’ll still learn during a 1:1. It may all be work-related info, or you may be able to figure out a way to make the relationship have less friction.

As a manager, your role is to ensure that your team members are productive and efficient and to foster a positive and respectful work environment. Regular 1:1 meetings with your employees can be an effective way to achieve these goals. Building solid relationships with your team members can increase their motivation, engagement, and job satisfaction.

Here are some additional tips on how to make the most of your 1:1 meetings with employees:

1. Make time for small talk

While covering important topics during your 1:1 meetings is vital, it's also essential to make time for small talk. This can help to build rapport with your employees and create a more relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Small talk can also help you get to know your employees better and identify any personal or professional challenges they may face.

2. Encourage your employees to set their own goals

During your 1:1 meetings, encourage your employees to set their own goals and objectives. This can help to increase their sense of ownership and accountability for their work. By setting challenging yet achievable goals, employees can feel empowered and motivated to succeed.

3. Use open-ended questions

When asking questions during your 1:1 meetings, use open-ended questions encouraging your employees to share their thoughts and feelings. This can help you to identify any challenges they may be facing and to offer support or guidance where needed. Open-ended questions can also help you better understand your employees’ perspectives and build trust with them.

4. Offer praise and recognition

Regularly offering your employees praise and recognition can help boost their confidence and job satisfaction. During your 1:1 meetings, take the time to acknowledge your employees' accomplishments and offer positive feedback on their performance. This can help to create a positive and supportive work environment where employees feel valued and appreciated.

Reinforce the behavior you want to see in them and on the team. If they spent the extra time to help a customer solve a problem, tell them you saw that. Tell them how you appreciate it and why. Praising their actions closer to when they happened does two things: 1) it’s immediate recognition which should make them feel good for their efforts, and 2) it tells them you’re paying attention and care about how they’re doing their job.

5. Be consistent

Consistency can help to build trust with your employees and to demonstrate your commitment to them. Consistency is vital when it comes to 1:1 meetings. Make sure that you are scheduling your meetings regularly and that you are following through on any action items or commitments.

You must try to keep 1:1s on schedule and not move them around the calendar much. I’m certainly guilty of having to move 1:1s at the last second due to some meeting conflict, but it pains me every time. Imagine the shoe was on the other foot. How would you feel if your boss moved your 1:1 with little notice? Experienced or senior people are more likely to understand that your time isn’t always yours. But junior staff they’re the ones that are less likely to understand. They’re still assuming that managers control everything and that having the conflict is their choice.

Even if you have to move it, try to give what context you can (e.g., “Hey, I’m stuck in this budget calls, but it’s crucial to the delivery. I’ll find the next available time.”) so they can know why you had to reprioritize their 1:1.

1:1s are extremely important

Remember, 1:1 meetings can be a powerful tool for building solid relationships with your team members and improving communication and productivity. By making time for small talk, encouraging your employees to set their own goals, using open-ended questions, offering praise and recognition, and being consistent, you can make the most of your 1:1 meetings and help your team deliver successfully.