Echo’s handbook to 1-on-1 meetings: Benefits, Flaws and Check-List

1 on 1 meetings - Echo's handbook to 1-on-1 meetings: Benefits, Flaws and Check-List

Unlock the power of effective communication with Echo’s guide to 1-on-1 meetings. Discover key benefits, tips for success, and methods to maximize productivity in your personal interactions.

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    What are 1-on-1 meetings?

    One-on-one meetings are recurring meetings between a manager and their direct report that go beyond simple status updates or performance conversations.

    The goal is to create better alignment, productivity, motivation, and growth by talking honestly about things that impact their work and experience. These conversations might require touching on what the employee finds challenging, what they find rewarding, the state of their well-being, or even the strength of their work relationships.

    Benefits for Organizations

    Effective 1-on-1 meetings not only enhance relationships but also increase productivity, engagement, and a sense of support and belonging in the organization.

    Data from Culture Amp reveals that investing in managers’ development and improving their effectiveness in developing direct reports can significantly boost engagement and retention. Employees who score low on ‘sense of belonging‘ are three times more likely to leave, highlighting the importance of creating a sense of belonging, an area that can be improved through one-on-one meetings.

    Benefits for Managers

    Managers can benefit greatly from such meetings by building relationships and trust, creating a safe space for honest communication.

    These meetings can help managers develop their coaching and listening skills and give feedback effectively. Studies have shown that managers who conduct frequent 1-on-1s tend to score higher in overall performance. Google’s Project Oxygen study revealed that high-scoring managers are more likely to conduct regular 1-on-1 meetings with their team members.

    Benefits for Direct Reports

    1-on-1 meetings offer direct reports the opportunity to receive personalized attention from their managers, which can result in higher engagement, motivation, and a better sense of being equipped to succeed in their role. These meetings allow for discussions beyond status updates and task lists, while also encouraging self-reflection and deeper self-awareness.

    Common Problems of One-to-One Meetings to Avoid

    • Lacking Structure. To avoid lacking structure or purpose in 1-on-1 meetings, it’s important to establish the right structure and clearly define the purpose of the meeting. This is particularly important when sensitive topics need to be discussed, as it helps ensure that everyone knows what to expect and how to approach the conversation.
    • Focusing on Manager. Managers should make sure that 1-on-1s are not centered around them. Instead, they should prioritize the topics that are most important to their direct reports and listen actively, offering guidance only when asked. This means consciously making an effort to speak less and listen more, following a ratio of 70:30 for listening-to-speaking. By doing so, managers can ensure that their direct reports feel heard and valued during the meeting.
    • Skipping Meeting. When managers skip 1-on-1 meetings, it can send a message to their direct reports that they are not a priority or valued. Therefore, 1-on-1s should be considered a top priority and not skipped.
    • Rushing Through Feedback. Rushing through feedback during a 1-on-1 meeting can be detrimental to the quality of feedback and its effectiveness. Managers should prepare for delivering feedback in advance and dedicate sufficient time during the meeting to ensure that the feedback is accurate, clear, and actionable. This will also allow the direct report to have enough time to discuss the feedback and ask any questions or seek clarification.
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    The manager’s checklist for effective 1-on-1s

    ✅ Setting the context of a 1-on-1

    • Discuss the importance and benefits of 1-on-1s. This can help them understand the value and dedicate the appropriate amount of focus.
    • Allow direct reports to co-create and own the purpose of the meetings. Ask them to consider how both parties could work together to make sure the direct report gets the most value out of the meeting.
    • Agree on duration and frequency. We suggest a cadence between weekly and monthly, for 30-60 minutes. The important thing is to maintain a regular frequency.
    • Agree on an overall structure that still allows room to deviate if something comes up that they’d like to discuss.
    • Establish where, when, and how you’ll meet – i.e. Zoom, meeting room, or even going outside of the office. Always ensure that the space allows for privacy and confidential conversations.
    • Be willing to adjust all of the above as you learn what works best.

    ✅ Prepare in advance

    • Agree on an agenda beforehand (ideally the day before).
    • Consider any achievements that should be recognized or any feedback you might have for your direct report. Practice how to phrase your feedback.
    • Avoid rescheduling the meeting at the last minute – your direct report must have a consistent meeting where they get their manager’s attention and focus.

    ✅ Create the right environment

    • Set the tone. Be punctual and warm from the moment you join the meeting. Remind them that this is their time and set the tone to communicate openness and safety.
    • Stay present. Remove any distractions: move away from workstations and silence phones or laptops. Make your direct report feel that they’re your priority.
    • Ask questions – especially open-ended questions. Stay focused on the direct report, try to avoid shifting the conversation to yourself or others unless truly necessary.
    • Take shared notes of the key points and actions that you can refer back to at a later date. Seek clarity (or set out examples) where necessary to ensure understanding.
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    ✅ What to cover in the meeting

    • Start by asking how they’re doing, and do an overall work check-in.
    • Confirm the agenda is still as planned.
    • Ask for a follow-up on previous meeting actions and learnings.
    • Ask about key successes or highlights from the week. Acknowledge any of your direct report’s achievements, or instances where they contributed value.
    • Check-in on key areas like their wellbeing, growth and learning, work relationships, productivity, and impact.
    • Ask follow-up questions if further clarity or understanding is needed on a particular point (see guide questions below).
    • Ask for feedback on your role as manager, using questions like ‘what is working well?’, ‘what is one thing I can do differently?’, or ‘what could I do more / less of?’.

    ✅ The final five minutes: wrapping up the 1-on-1

    • Recap the meeting and close with agreed-upon actions for each person to follow-up on.
    • Reflect on how the meeting went, and capture any valuable insights to apply in the next 1-on-1.

    Conclusion

    By understanding the importance of such meetings and utilizing the provided check-list, you can create an environment that fosters open dialogue, trust, and growth within your team.

    Ultimately, the success of 1-on-1 meetings lies in your ability to adapt and adjust to the unique needs of your team members, ensuring that everyone feels heard, valued, and supported. As you continue to invest in these personal connections, you’ll not only strengthen your organization but also empower each individual to reach their fullest potential.

    Tags: 1-on-1, benefits, checklist, communication, development.

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    Echo has helped dozens of tech companies build and manage high-performing software engineering teams in Eastern Europe. Feel free to connect me directly at šŸ“§ zpiku@echoua.com
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    Ridge Harris
    Ridge Harris
    6 months ago

    There is lots of useful information here. I’ve had one-on-one meetings and unfortunately, the majority were postponed indefinitely or glossed over. I can’t think of any productive ones and this could have been avoided by following your guidelines. I have a question. What should a manager do if they have a potentially tense situation? Should they have someone from management present? Should they do the meeting via Zoom? What are your thoughts?

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