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Dr. Lynn K. Jones
Certified Executive Coach
Santa Barbara, California
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5 Simple Rules for Effective One-on-One Meetings

5 Simple Rules for Effective One-on-One Meetings are exactly that. These simple guidelines will allow you to gain the most out of conducting a productive meeting.
Written Oct 25, 2011, read 26138 times since then.
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Rule 1:  You must Have One-on-One Meetings!!

No, no…PLEASE…not another meeting!!  If you are like most managers, you are running from meeting to meeting and can’t imagine fitting one more in your schedule.  

I was recently had this conversation with an organization that I am consulting with.  I am coaching three of the senior managers and we are working extremely hard to turn around their negative culture.  The ship is starting to right, but it won’t without developing strong relationships between the managers and the staff.  Having regular one-on-one meetings with the staff is really the only way to do that

But…I talk to my staff all the time.  They bop into my office whenever they want!  Sorry, but it is not the same.  Don’t believe me?  Then listen to this podcast on Manager Tools.com  that one of my clients told me about.  They also have a link for a handy downloadable form to prepare and track your meetings. 

Rule 2:  Make your One-on-One Meetings a Standing Meeting on your Calendar.

Your one-one-one meetings need to be a regularly scheduled meetings on your calendar.   Why is that?  So that they happen!  If it is not scheduled, your calendar (and theirs) will fill up and the meetings won’t happen. 

But I can’t fit in all those meetings.  You can.  This may surprise you, but these meetings will actually save you time.  When you limit all the interruptions from people bopping into your office to ask you questions (which they can now save for their one-on-one with you) you will have a lot of quality time that you didn’t have before!

Rule 3:  Make your One-on-One Meetings Regular

I recommend weekly, but bi-weekly is OK, especially if you have a lot of direct reports.  The bottom line is:  your one-on-one meetings need to be meetings that people can count on.  They need to know that how they are doing is a priority for you and that you will be ensuring that these meetings take place. 

If you are meeting regularly, your one-on-one meetings can be as short as a ½ hour.  If they are focused with an agenda, you will accomplish what you want in a half hour.  Is a half hour every two weeks too much time to be spending with your direct reports? 

Rule 4: One-on-One Meetings are NOT Development Conversations!

Sometimes managers think the purpose of one-on-one meetings is to have development or goal setting conversations with their direct reports.  Actually, the purpose of the one-on-ones is to make a personal and individual connection between you and your direct report; the meetings establish a rapport that will build trust and understanding across the organization. 

One of the most transformative outcomes of one-one-one meetings is developing the level of understanding between you and the individuals on your team.  When important actions need to be taken in your organization, your direct reports will be competent to act nimbly and flexibly and you will have the confidence that they know what you think. 

Rule 5:  Design your Meetings so that they are Appreciative

Structure the time that you have in the one-on-one so that have mutual benefit: you discuss what you want and your direct report also has time to discuss what they want.  This is a time for you to not only learn about what is going on in your direct report’s work life but in their personal life too. 

Why is that important?  It is important, because when people are valued for all that they bring to the job, they feel a greater sense of purpose and meaning. 

One of the people that I coach told me how disappointed she was that her boss knew nothing about some important foundation work she was doing outside of the job.  She believed that the boss didn’t care about her work outside of the organization, which really meant that he didn’t care about her in her mind.  You do care about your direct reports—they will believe it if you take the time and interest to learn appreciate what they are doing in their life.

QUESTION:  Do you have one-on-one meetings as a manager or as a direct report with your boss?  If so, how do you do to get the most value out of them?

If you would like other management coaching support, please call me for a free complimentary session at 805.448.7681 or schedule a session using my on-line calendar.

Learn more about the author, Dr. Lynn K. Jones.

Comment on this article

  • Process Pro 
Snohomish, Washington 
Sandra Piotrowski
    Posted by Sandra Piotrowski, Snohomish, Washington | Nov 03, 2011

    Excellent article. In addition to the point about fewer drop-ins as a result (because people know they will have a definitive opportunity to speak) it reinforces the concept that everyone's time is valuable - both manager and subordinate.

    Scheduling one-on-ones is very respectful and people pick up on that. The manager needs to be committed to attending the meetings; if he or she starts to consistently cancel or allows the meetings to be interrupted by others, the manager will develop a reputation for being dismissive and unreliable as well as sending the message that the employee is not particularly valued. Ouch!

    Again, really good article - I'll be passing it on.

  • Writer/Editor/Creative Consultant 
Portland, Oregon 
Carrie Ure
    Posted by Carrie Ure, Portland, Oregon | Nov 03, 2011

    Thanks for the great article. I am finding that the weekly one-on-one also works outside the organization, that is, in the client-consultant relationship. I am finding that my most productive clients and the ones I most enjoy working with are those with whom I have a standing check-in meeting. I also agree with the previous comment. Noticing when people begin to cancel, postpone or interrupt meetings is a sure sign of looming issues.

    Thanks again for posting this informative article.

  • Small biz owner & entrepreneur 
Seattle, Washington 
Rob Gropper
    Posted by Rob Gropper, Seattle, Washington | Nov 03, 2011

    Lynn, thanks for the article and the reminder that management isn't rocket science - sometimes we need to be reminded that we just need to be human with our direct reports and simply connect at a human level. One additional note: having one-on-ones on the calendar also provides a reason for our direct reports to pause and think, before popping into our office, about whether the issue at hand really requires the manager's time or is something they can handle on their own. One of the most important jobs for a manager is grooming his/her replacement(s). Giving our direct reports the freedom to lead on their own is crucial to succession planning.

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