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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.

More Resources About Leadership at Work

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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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 13, 2020

7 Simple Brain Training Habits to Boost Your Brain Power

7 Simple Brain Training Habits to Boost Your Brain Power

Throughout the ages, there have been many beliefs in various tricks to boosting brain power, yet when held up to scientific scrutiny, most of these beliefs don’t add up.

When I was a child, for example, my mother told me if I ate fish it would make me more intelligent. Of course, there’s no scientific proof this is true.

Today, there is a myriad of games you can download to your phone that claims to improve your brain’s cognitive skills. While we are still waiting for a conclusive scientific verdict on these, recent studies by neuroscientists at Western University in Ontario[1] and researchers from the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia appear to contradict these claims.[2]

So, how can we really boost our brain power? Well, it turns out there are a number of simple things you can do that will improve the function of your brain. Here are seven to get you started.

1. Do Your Most Difficult Tasks in the Morning

Our brains work at their best when they are fresh and energized after a good night’s sleep.

If you have a task to do that requires a lot of thought and focus, the best time to do that task would be first thing in the morning when your brain is at its freshest.

This is one of the reasons why checking email first thing the morning is not a good idea. You are wasting your brain’s best hours on a simple task that can be done when your brain is not at its freshest

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Throughout the day, you will find the amount of time you can focus for will fall. Your decision-making abilities will also begin to weaken as the day progresses. This is called “decision fatigue” and that means the decisions you make later in the day will not be as good as the decisions you make earlier in the day.

It’s far better to do your most difficult, creative tasks early taking advantage of your brain’s higher energy levels.

Try to avoid meetings first thing in the morning and schedule work that needs higher creative energy and concentration.

2. Get Enough Breaks

Our brains are not very good at maintaining concentration and focus for much more than an hour. Once you go beyond a certain amount of time, doing focused work, you will find yourself making more and more mistakes. This is a sign your brain is tired and needs a break.

Taking the right kind of break is important. Switching from working on a complex spreadsheet to checking your social media feeds is not going to give your brain the right kind of break. Instead, get up from your desk and head outside. If that is not possible, go to the nearest window and look outside.

Your brain needs a break from the screen, not just the spreadsheet, so leave your phone behind so you are not tempted to look at it and just savour the view.

3. Read Books, not Social Media Feeds

There are no shortcuts to improved knowledge and you are certainly not going to improve your general knowledge about anything useful by reading social media feeds. Instead, make reading books a regular habit.

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When you read good quality books, you increase your ability to use the knowledge you learn to solve problems as your brain will apply the knowledge you learned to existing situations.

Learn about economic theory, history and psychology. All these topics have real practical applications for us all today.

4. Exercise Regularly

Humans did not evolve to be stationary animals. You need to move.

Had our ancestors spent their days sat around, they would not have survived very long. To survive and find food, our ancestors had to keep moving. Our brains have evolved to function at their best when we are exercised.

In his book, Brain Rules, Prof.John Medina explains when we exercise, we increase the amount of oxygen in our brains and this helps to sharpen our brain’s functions.

In studies, when a previously sedentary group of people began a light exercise programme, their cognitive skills improve as well as reaction times and quantitive skills.

This is why you are more likely to find the solution to a problem when you are walking somewhere or exercising rather than when you are sat at a desk in front of a screen.

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5. Get Enough of the Right Food

You probably have experienced the afternoon slump at some point in your life. This is when you feel tired and fatigued in the mid-afternoon. This is a result of the carbohydrates you ate at lunchtime, stimulating your body to produce insulin which then causes a drop in your blood sugar levels.

When you go into an afternoon slump, concentrating for long periods become almost impossible and you just want to curl up and go to sleep.

To prevent the afternoon slump, try to eat a protein-rich lunch such as a tuna or chicken salad without pasta, rice or bread. Keep some healthy snacks such as mixed nuts and dried bananas around your workspace and when you feel a little peckish, eat a few of these.

Not only will you avoid the afternoon slump, but you will also improve your overall general health and feel a lot more energetic.

6. Drink Enough Water

Your brain is made up of about 70% water, so without enough water, your brain will not function at its best.

When you are not drinking enough water, you will find your ability to concentrate, make decisions and stay alert will reduce. You will feel sleepy and lack energy. Your brain functions at its best when it is properly hydrated.

The solution is to keep a large bottle of water at your work station and sip regularly from it throughout the day. This will increase the number of trips you need to make to the bathroom which is a good thing. It will keep you moving and taking regular breaks from your screen.

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7. Don’t Deprive Yourself of Sleep

You probably don’t need a long scientific study to convince you that if you are not getting enough sleep, you are not going to function at your best.

You just need to go a couple of days without getting enough sleep and you feel your abilities reduce. Your decision-making skills become erratic, your energy levels drop and your ability to stay focused on your work diminishes.

If you want to improve your brain’s ability to function, then start with getting enough sleep. The number of hours you need will depend on your own circadian rhythms, so find what works best for you.

Six to eight hours is usually enough for most people so make sure you are hitting that number of hours per night as a minimum.

The Bottom Line

Improving our brain power is not difficult. All we need to do is develop a few simple habits such as exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and eating the right foods.

These seven tips will go a long way to helping you to become more alert, able to focus longer and make decisions. All simple common sense tricks anyone can use.

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Featured photo credit: Nicole Wolf via unsplash.com

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