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Published on December 21, 2018

How to Run an Effective One on One Meeting with Team Members

How to Run an Effective One on One Meeting with Team Members

The one on one meeting is a crucial and often underestimated management tool.

Not only is it an honest way to connect with employees and share the necessary information with them, but it is also a great way to hear their feedback.

What’s even more important – the one on one meeting is an opportunity to shape your employee’s experience and perception of you as a boss. In many cases, what they think about you and your management style will also be reflected in their opinion about the whole company or organization that you represent.

Running effective one on one meetings should be a priority for you as a manager or team leader. The 11 tips laid out in this article will help you make the most of this crucial time.

1. Get in the Right Mindset

A proper one on one session starts already before the meeting as you prepare your notes and your attitude for it.

Seeing the one on one meeting as an unwelcome distraction in your busy day won’t get you far.

Instead, take a few moments to clear your mind and focus on the person you are about to meet.

Start by reviewing your notes from the previous one-on-one with that employee, have a look at their latest performance stats, mark any complaints or praises you’ve received about them.

2. Make One on One Meetings a Regular Thing

The frequency of your one-on-ones largely depends on your company size and your management style. Some sources say that such meetings should be weekly, while others state that a bi-weekly or monthly schedule would do the trick.

A good idea is to set the next recurring meeting at the end of each current meeting so both parties can plan ahead for it.

Think about the frequency and length that would not seem too much for you or your employees, but would still be enough to keep everyone in the loop and maintain continuous contact.

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New employees should have one-on-ones more often, at least once every week or two weeks.

Recurring one on one sessions make feedback sharing a routine and encourage a culture of honesty. Besides, regular personal conversations make employees feel understood, trusted and valued in the company – thus boosting their intrinsic motivation.

3. Set a Time Limit for the Meetings

Schedule enough time for these conversations, but don’t make them too long either. Nobody will look forward to meetings that lose focus and just drag on forever.

The optimal length of each session also depends on the frequency of these meetings – for example, if you meet every week, a 30-minute session might be enough. If you meet once in a fortnight or a month, 60 minutes might be more effective.

Successful managers such as Andy Grove, Co-Founder and former CEO of Intel, have advised to do one-on-ones that last for at least one hour:’

“Anything less, in my experience, tends to make the subordinate confine himself to simple things that can be handled quickly.”

4. Make a List of Topics to Discuss

A general plan or structure for the meeting might help to get the conversation going – especially in the first few meetings. However, you don’t have to stick to the plan no matter what. See it rather as a reference that can help in case the conversation gets stuck or drifts too far from the topic.

A meeting agenda can also be helpful if the employee is introverted and won’t be likely to talk on his or her own.

For example, you can prepare three to five topics that you are most interested to know about. Or, you can keep a list of questions in front of you, but remember to be flexible – you don’t have to ask all of them if the conversation flows naturally.

Some ideas for questions that are likely to generate thorough answers:

  • Which part of the day do you feel most productive? Do you feel you’d need a different work schedule to improve your well-being and productivity?
  • What are your latest achievements that make you proud?
  • Do you have any suggestions that could help us work better as a team?
  • Is there anybody on the team you find hard to work with? Could you explain why?
  • Which of your tasks keep you engaged and inspired? Is there a way to make your daily tasks more engaging?
  • What are the main bottlenecks in your present project? Can I help in any way to move it along?
  • What are the things that worry you in your job or the office environment in general? Have you ever felt undervalued here?
  • Do you feel like you are learning enough at work? Which areas would you like to learn more about?
  • What can I do to improve my management style or to support you better?
  • What projects or tasks you would be interested in working on next?

Pro tip:

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Google’s former CEO Eric Schmidt used to start his one-on-ones by comparing his lists with the ones his employees were asked to prepare before the meeting.[1] The items found on both lists were prioritized because they were likely to be the most pressing issues.

5. Keep It Casual and Change the Setting

If you aim to have an honest, relaxed and sincere conversation with your employee, think not only about your words and body language but also about the atmosphere at the meeting.

Your goal is to be professional and productive, but not necessarily awkward or stale.

First, find a relaxing place for a private conversation. Cozy furniture, warm colors, office plants or even a different view from the window has the potential of stirring up new ideas and suggestions. But you don’t even have to stick to a meeting room – why not go for a walk or have a coffee in a nearby cafe?

CEO of productivity tracking software DeskTime, Artis Rozentals, believes that one on one meetings should take place outside the usual constraints of the office:

“I find an opportunity to go on a longer one on one lunch with each of my team members to discuss everything in a casual atmosphere.”

He adds that informality doesn’t mean that the meeting takes place without preparation.

“Before the meeting, I draw up the topical questions and data, and share it with the respective employee, so that we both come prepared and have a fruitful conversation.”

6. Focus on the Employee

The employee should be the main focus of one on one conversations. The famous American businessman and author Ben Horowitz recommends that a manager should only talk for 10% of the time, leaving the rest of the talking to the team member.

Remember – as the person in the power position, you should set your ego aside and support your employee as well as you can.

Ideally, the conversation will flow naturally around whatever matters to him or her. If it doesn’t, ask open questions that could help them elaborate their position and express their feedback (see tip No 4).

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7. Listen like You Mean It

Your task is not only to let your employee talk. It’s also to listen – actively. This means you don’t listen just to be polite. You are actually trying to understand and remember everything that’s being shared.

Some active listening techniques:

  • Remain open-minded, confident, and listen to the person without drawing one-sided conclusions.
  • Show the employee you’re paying attention and occasionally summarize what they say.
  • Double-check if you understood some statements right to avoid misunderstandings (for example, ‘Did I get it right that you’d like the marketing team to join this project in order to avoid further delays?’).
  • Be receptive to everything you hear – even the criticism about your company or your own performance.

8. Share Relevant Information

We already mentioned that the employer should talk less and listen more. However, if you do have something important to say, and it affects this employee personally or professionally, the one on one meeting is the time to say it.

Are you preparing a new project or strategy that the employee should know about? Are you testing some new management tactics and would like them to be on board? Are new changes about to impact the company or your team in particular?

Make sure you keep each employee in the loop to avoid gossip and misinformation spreading in the office. If you tell them the news personally, they will also feel more valued and appreciated.

9. Write Down Notes

Most likely, you are in charge of more than one or two employees, so you shouldn’t rely on your memory to mark down all the important points every team member raises.

However, it is not recommended to write notes on your computer during the meeting. Why?

Having a laptop open can be easily interpreted as being distracted and not very interested in the conversation.

So you’ll have to take notes the old-fashioned way – by writing them down in a notebook, journal or a piece of paper.

Taking notes lets your team member see that you are actively engaged in the meeting and that the points laid out will be taken into account. In other words – that this is not just a waste of their time.

10. Leave with a Task or Takeaway

Just as everything else business-related, one on one meetings should have a purpose and an actionable outcome. In other words, make sure that you, your employee, or, ideally, both of you, leave with an action item or a task to be completed.

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To solidify this, send a quick email after the one on one meeting, rehashing the main things you went over. This will ensure that both of you are on the same page and aware of the next steps each side should take.

A recap email will take a few more minutes of your time but will undoubtedly prove worthwhile in the long run.

11. Don’t Neglect One-On-Ones with Your Remote Workers

Today, increasingly more managers work with a team that partly (or entirely) consists of remote workers. If you are one of them, know this:

One on one meetings are even more critical when it comes to your remote team.

Why? Because you can feel the sentiment of your in-house team every day in the office. At the same time, you might have no idea about how your outsourced or remote employees feel.

CEO of print on demand startup Printful, Davis Siksnans, manages a company with 500 employees spanning two continents. Besides having quarterly meetings for all employees, he requires managers to have regular one-on-ones with each of their team members,[2] in addition to bi-annual performance reviews.

He points out:

“It’s a great way to show that managers care about the performance and well-being of the employee. Topics come up that otherwise wouldn’t in a regular discussion, like the kind of music being played in the office, for instance.”

Santa Lice-Kruze, Director of HR at Printful Latvia, agrees with Davis and ads:

”Conversations have to be built upon a basis of transparency and mutual trust. This is the time to ask how the person is doing, about his or her work-life balance, health, out-of-work activities, etc. You certainly have to ask if and how you can help with anything.”

See Eye to Eye with Your Employees

As a manager, you need to be consistent in everything you do – and one on one meetings are no exception. They don’t have to take place every day or even every week, but you need to be committed to them every single time.

Remember – your primary goal is supporting your employee’s performance. Having a regular personal chat with each of the people who report to you will help you see an increase in employee engagement. And this will likely lead to improved company culture and higher productivity for the whole company.

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Ieva Baranova

Ieva helps tech startups access big markets and is a passionate advocate of alternative work formats.

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Last Updated on January 14, 2019

The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

Regardless of whether you hold an entry-level administration role or regularly travel to the ends of the Earth as a hot-shot senior executive, you can still find yourself harboring an emptiness… a feeling that something is missing. A popular assumption that experiencing job satisfaction and a successful career should be underpinned by a well-rounded suite of tangible benefits, no longer holds true for many of us.

We’d never deny health care benefits, appropriate and fair remuneration, bonuses and travel perks in a job package. However, even if served to us on a silver platter, those features can only satiate us to a certain point.

You might wonder what governs entrepreneurs and start-up business owners to quit their lucrative jobs, essentially look the gift horse in the mouth and kiss such benefits goodbye! There can be an irresistible pull to mastermind a business with products and/or services that serve the greater good of community wider than that constituting their daily existence.

Even with research showing entrepreneurship to pose greater threats to their mental and physical health, this unique breed of individuals choose to go against the grain in chasing their dreams of being their own boss. Why? Why would anyone risk this type of career suicide?

Whether you’re an employee, have recently taken the leap to being a business owner or been in business for a while, the commonality is a congenital condition we all share as human beings; to feel a sense of purpose, value and contribution to our community. Despite it being harder to find this for ourselves in today’s world, these approaches will help you achieve ultimate satisfaction through the twists, turns and joyrides that are essential features of shaping a successful career.

1. Search for Opportunities That Feed Your Passion, Not Temporary Excitement

Even though well-intended, the ‘feel good now’ compass that career coaches and consultants often recommend you use to create career satisfaction can actually do you more harm than good. Excitement is transient. It doesn’t last. Passion is the compass you need.

Passion and excitement are two different things. The resounding career legacy that still draws you to turn up on the job regardless of the sunshine or storm that awaits you…that’s passion. It’s like a mental and/or emotional itch you can’t shrug off. Staying attuned to that calling will breed success for you sooner or later. Patience is key.

You’re also likely to have more than one key passion. Beware of getting caught in the notion you have to find your one true purpose. In fact, run immediately from any coach who tells you there is only one. There isn’t.

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Your passion is a journey that can take multiple forms so forget thinking there is the single dream job out there that will give you satisfaction in every way you can imagine. It simply doesn’t exist.

Consider embracing different roles and projects to help you fuel your passion or fuel your pursuits in finding it. Job satisfaction and your career success will be all the more sweeter from a wider range of enriching experiences.

2. Don’t Position Job and Career Satisfaction Assessments as Pivotal Guides to Your Success

Despite their popular use for vocational guidance, assessment tools such as Gallup’s Clifton Strengths and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator have come under fire[1] as being limited to the amount of true value and direction they can offer partakers.[2] These and many other guidance assessment tools (e.g. VIA Character Strengths , DISC ) are self-report questionnaires that don’t have normative population data against which to compare your results.

Simply remember these tools help you develop a stronger sense of what you identify as strengths and weaknesses within yourself, not in comparison with other people. They will still add insight around what sorts of career opportunities, tasks and projects are going to light your fire, what ones are going to extinguish it and what will prod and keep the coals steadily smoldering.

3. Be Clear on Your Personal Values, Ethics and Principles and Choose Relationships That Support You Honoring Them

Teamwork, collaboration, open communication and trust are commonplace for any flourishing work environment. However, whether or not your personal values can be honored in your work can make or break your job satisfaction.

How committed do you want to be to an organization that expects an average of 10 unpaid overtime hours every week under the guise of ‘reasonable overtime’? Are you willing to accept their construing this expectation as ‘strong commitment’ at the expense of your partner and children waiting at home for you? What are your boundaries concerning when you clock on to their time and when you clock off to yours?

Being very in tune with what your personal values, principles and ethics are will bid you well in the job satisfaction stakes. Spending time to reflect on experiences and working relationships you’ve had – the good, the bad and the ugly – will help you make well-informed searches and grounded decisions that will propel your career success.

Finding and nurturing relationships with associates and colleagues who share similar values doesn’t just make your day-to-day pursuits more enjoyable. You become fortunate to work with like-minded people who will support, understand and appreciate you like a second family.

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Being able to honor your personal values in your work means you will still be able to sleep at night when you have to tread where others fear to, and make extremely difficult decisions others would never ever dream of having to make as you forge success in your career.

4. Be Clear on Your Own Definition of What Having a Successful Career Means for You

It’s tempting to get caught up in the ideals and projections of success expressed by those we love, admire and respect. Underneath, we all want on some level to belong to a successful club of some sort.

With research reporting how much money we feel we need to be truly happy,[3] many of us try to subscribe to the notion that having the car of our dreams or taking a European holiday annually will not bring us happiness. The truth, however, for many of us is these tangible rewards are congratulatory reminders of our persistent efforts to chase our career pursuits.

If those are things you aspire to, don’t let anyone steal your desire and want to feel deserving of these things, that those are some parameters by which you define your career success.

Despite consistently being the top revenue earner for two years running, you may not wish to become the sales manager. You may not wish to step out into running your own business even though you consistently excel as an employee, delighting clients and repeatedly receiving glowing testimonials.

Your definition of career success might be enjoying the predictability of a regular workplace routine. You get to leave – without feeling guilty – at the same time each day, love the people you work with and get to spend a good, uninterrupted amount of work-stress free quality time with your family. That picture is also blissful job satisfaction and complete career success.

5. Identify the Sorts of Challenges and Problems You Want to Learn to Overcome

Standard advice you might receive from a career coach might be to look for opportunities where you get to capitalize on exercising your strengths and career-related activities you enjoy.

However, to become a success at anything involves improvement. To excel at anything often involves stepping outside boundaries and comfort zones where others wouldn’t. This means dedicating focus and attention to things you’re not so good at and things you don’t like.

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Here’s where working with a coach can be particularly helpful. Map out the experiences that were unsavory in your working history. Were there challenges you opted out of, projects you failed at or toxic relationships that blasted your sense of purpose and self-worth into oblivion? It’s within these experiences that you might just find the most valuable lessons and guiding lights for your trajectory to achieve greater job satisfaction.

If your natural leadership style is to be a collaborator, finding opportunities that require you to apply a more dictatorial style might be needed. Discussing a secondment or short-term project where you get to develop and test your skills can be a step further in earning contention to lead a larger project down the track.

With several of the company’s boldest personality types penciled to roll out the operation, you’ll not only develop skills that earn your right to throw your hat in the ring; those key players have an opportunity to see your competence. You can then work on building relationships with those stakeholders before you need to hit the ground running should you win the lead.

Greater job satisfaction comes with planning and choosing the lessons and opportunities you want to learn, not desperately flailing, floundering and hoping for the best.

6. Keep Reviewing Your Goal Posts and Be Amenable to Change

The word ‘career’ is indicative of a longer-term pathway of change, growth and development. The journey is dynamic.

You will accumulate new skills and let those you no longer need, become rusty. Your intrigue will be stimulated by new experiences, knowledge and people you meet. Your thinking will continue to expand, not shrink. As a result, your goalposts are likely to change.

A major part of enjoying a successful career is not just setting goals effectively, but regularly reviewing and readjusting them where necessary. However, moving the posts or the target still needs to take place by applying the same processes by which you originally created them. The strength of your emotional connection to those revised goals needs to be the same, if not stronger.

By asking yourself the following questions, you can assure your developmental and growth trajectory is still on course:

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  • Would working toward these goals still allow me to honor my personal values, principles and ethics at the same capacity if not greater?
  • Do the activities I need to undertake to meet these goals honor my highest priorities?
  • Does this feel right for me and those who are nearest and dearest to me?
  • Is this aligned with my passion?
  • Is chasing this goal a right step for me to take now or is this a detour or distraction which could delay my greater plan?

Each of your career goals should have different review periods. Whatever you do, stick to the review schedule you set. It will not only keep you focused but help you see your progress (or lack thereof) and allow you to timely re-chart your course before you get too far down the track. You don’t want to waste time haphazardly heading in the wrong direction.

7. Be Prepared to Let Go

It can be unfathomable to us as to why others risk leaping into the unknown when everything truly appears fine and dandy in the career realm. The company provided stability, recognition, financial success, interesting projects and the promise of a promotion…what was wrong? Why now jump sideways to run a café or train in another field altogether?

Nothing may have been wrong at all. It was all going right. It was just the end of a chapter. Perhaps the yearning for the next step is actually taking a different trajectory entirely. You may want to simply experience a different rhythm. Perhaps it’s time to pursue a different passion.

If you have leaped from employee-land to freelancing or have made the reverse-jump (or you know someone who has), you will have quickly grown a different appreciation for pros and cons each work lifestyle brings. Working for yourself can bring the greater realization of your creativity, whether or not it can be monetized to earn you a living.

When your customers are buying you or a product you designed and fashioned, there is a direct level of appreciation and gratitude that can elevate your confidence in the way you have never experienced as an employee, regardless of your rank.

Similarly, there are times where we need to recognize our business ventures were adventures, not long-term life-changing empires. There are times we need to recognize that time is what provides the clearest limitation of how long we persist for in such pursuits.

We have to recognize the absence of enough financial, mental, emotional and physical breadcrumbs that tells us we’re no longer meant to push in that direction. At least, not for the present time.

The Bottom Line

Above all, keep the momentum. As long as you remain committed to pursuing work opportunities that allow you to honor your highest priorities, the truth of who you are and what you stand for, achieving ultimate job satisfaction and a successful career will never be too far away.

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