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14 tips to improve your one to one meetings

Posted by Hannah Price in Clarity, Purpose
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Have you perfected the one to one meeting? Few people have.

This meeting should be a treasured time, in which a manager and an employee connect and nurture a healthy working relationship… but it’s often a missed opportunity.

Awkward silences, repeated conversations, and a general lack of progress aren’t uncommon in one to one meetings. And we feel it’s time for that to end.

We sat down with three successful managers from our company and asked them for their insights on one to one meetings. This is what we found out.

1. What are the benefits of one to one meetings?

One to one meetings allow a team member and manager to regularly connect and communicate. They offer the team member a time and space to be heard, set goals, advance their career, and get feedback. Yet, not everyone is sold on them.

If that’s you, and you’re asking yourself why you would start one to one meetings, here are a few thoughts from our managers:

They’ll make your work life better

One to one meetings provide an opportunity to get to know your colleagues more, whether you’re the manager or team member. If you make good use of them, you’ll be able to establish genuine and social relationships with your coworkers, which (for many people) makes going to work that much more enjoyable and interesting.

They’re reassuring

As a team member, it’s comforting to know that you have a regular one to one meeting booked. You’re safe in the knowledge that you have an outlet at work—a way to bring up what may be bothering you or to chat about goals you’d like to set.

They’re insightful

One to one meetings allow both sides to gain perspective. As a manager, they offer a way to get suggestions from your team to make improvements for everyone. As an employee, it gives you a window into the world of your manager and information from them.

2. As an employee, what’s the best balance of work/personal/professional in a one to one meeting?

There doesn’t seem to be a hard and fast answer here, but here are some great tips:

10-10-10

If you want a rough guide on how to balance the conversation, divide the meeting into thirds.

“You can think about it as spending 10 minutes on what’s on the employee’s mind, 10 minutes of what’s on the manager’s mind, and 10 minutes on what you want to achieve in the future.”
Dwight Ivany
QA Test Team Lead, Jostle

Flexibility is key

The content of your meeting will be heavily influenced by what’s going on at that time, both professionally and personally. If the employee’s life outside of work is turbulent, then they really just need an outlet for that, and as a manager you simply do your best to support them at work.

3. How do you, as a manager, prepare for one to one meetings with your team manager?

Everyone has a different approach for this, and one’s not necessarily better than the other. Here are two different tactics that our managers use when meeting with their senior manager:

Prepare an agenda

Take time in advance to prepare a big agenda of things you would like to discuss. This can be a mix of what’s happening in the team, improvements that you’ve seen in the team, and the direction you’d like to take certain projects. Our Mobile Lead Developer, Felipe Gasparino, also said:

Don’t forget to give feedback on your projects too. These briefs will help the manager and the team as a whole. And leave time for the manager to give you feedback!”

Choose 3 things

Another way to approach your meeting preparation is to focus on just three things:

“I come into the meeting with three talking points. The first is my biggest headache—a roadblock I’m currently experiencing. The second is an idea of something new I want to try. The third is an update on my team and morale. It’s important that all of that information makes its way up.”

Dustin Tysick
Director of Growth, Jostle

4. As a team manager, how do you actively listen and make your employee feel heard during your one on one meeting?

There’s a lot of things you can practice to show that you’re actively listening, like having an open body posture, but here’s what our managers have to say:

The first minutes are critical

It’s crucial that you show you’re engaged from the get-go. At the very start of the meeting, you really need to focus on making your employee the centre of your world for the next half an hour.

Do whatever you must to make that a reality for you—put your phone on silent, or don’t bring any device. Then give them centre stage and simply ask them how they’re doing and what’s on their mind.

Repeat back

This is a useful tactic, especially if you don’t have the perfect dynamic with one of your team members. Perhaps you often miscommunicate. To avoid that, and to ensure they feel heard, repeat their points back to them when you’re wrapping up a particular chapter of the conversation. This keeps everyone on the same page.

5. What advice do you have for those who may be shy or uncomfortable in one to one meetings?

If you’re new to one to one meetings, they can be a little awkward. This is particularly the case if you’re an introvert or shy. Here’s what our managers advised:

Start with the structure

Make sure to communicate the structure of the meeting to shyer team members. If you’re choosing the 10-10-10 option, then clarify that. Otherwise this meeting can seem long and daunting. It’s even better if you can let them know this in advance, so they can prepare if they want to.

Start with workplace topics

Breaking the ice with personal questions or even open-ended questions might be challenging. Start with your workplace topics—the projects they’re working on, the things they’re enjoying, other things they’d like to work on. Then, in time, when your relationship has developed, bring in more open-ended questions.

Remind them of the intent of the meeting

This meeting belongs to your team member. It’s their time to talk about what they wish, and the general intent is to keep communication open.

As a team manager, it’s occasionally worth reminding the team member of the fact that you’re there for them; that you’re on the same team, and if they’re not productive and happy, then you’re not productive and happy.

6. How do you keep track of progress and objectives through these meetings?

One of the goals of one to one meetings is to advance, grow, and progress as an employee and individual. Often this can get lost among the chatter. Here’s some advice from our managers:

Take notes

As a manager, take regular notes in the one to one meetings (in an unobstructive way, such as with a notepad). Then set up a live document that’s shared between the manager and team member.

Each of you can go through the document after the meeting notes have been written up to ensure the message was clearly received. It’s a great place to circle back to and track goals.

Set tasks

It’s easy for goals to become lofty and assigned to “some time in the future”. These often won’t get done unless there’s a clear set of actions associated with them. Ensure you set tasks for employees to achieve their goals.

“For example, say a team member wants to improve communication throughout your team. They need to focus on tangible things: what are you going to try, what tools are you going to use, how will you get started, how will you track it. Then they actually have steps to take and things to review.”

Felipe Gasparino
Mobile Lead Developer, Jostle

Conclusion

One to one meetings can be powerful and effective for both the team member and manager, but they’re easily squandered. Take time to consider how best to use and cultivate these meetings. Hopefully our insights have helped you on your journey to do that!

If you’ve got any feedback or questions for our leaders, please feel free to leave them in the Comments section below. We’d love to hear from you.

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