How to Improve Your Business by Instituting a Simple 1-On-1 Meeting

For most startups or even businesses that have been up and running for years, it seems like the only focus on anyone’s mind is getting the product up to speed and improving upon it.

I mean, if the product is doing well, then we are doing well…right?

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.

One of the biggest mistakes a company can make is when they fail to improve on their best assets: the employees.

Improving your team and the way your human capital operates is just as important, if not more important that improving upon the product itself.

Today’s post deals with a specific part of keeping the human components of your company well oiled. We are going to discuss the way in which managers should interact with employees to make sure employees are supported in the right way. Getting this crucial part right allows employees to be the best they can be.

A Manager’s Most Important Meeting

the one on one meeting

Weekly team meetings are vital to share information, make decisions, and align your team for strategy execution – but the subtleties of each individual’s particular needs cannot be fully addressed in a team meeting. In working with thousands of fast growth companies over the last sixteen years, we have noticed a key success discipline that great managers routinely practice. They schedule a regular weekly 1 on 1 meeting with each of their direct reports.

This 1 on 1 appointment is a brief meeting with a specific agenda. Random meetings (including casual conversations / coffees / brainstorming) that you may have with a team member during the week are all well and good, but they do not replace the recurring, diarized 1 on 1 meeting. That’s because the 1 on 1 meeting is where you are focused solely on that person and how you as a manager can best support them in the execution of their goals.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? But simple does not necessarily mean easy. Be honest. Do you have the discipline to conduct 1 on 1 meetings with your team members every week? Like many habits of success, this practice falls into the “important but not urgent” category. It takes real discipline to stick to a regular 1 on 1 meeting schedule, but the payoffs for both the manager and the employee are worth the effort. Try it for 12 weeks and see how much more you actually get done. Schedule it in both of your calendars and make it happen.

Let’s go over a proven agenda for running a successful 1 on 1 meeting:

1. Establish an agenda and time limit and stick to them. Keep the meeting brief and focused.

The 1 on 1 meeting should take no longer than 30 minutes. For example, if you have 7 direct reports, you should be able to meet with your whole team in one afternoon. Block out this time in your calendar and make sure you keep these appointments every week. Don’t blow them off. As a manager, your #1 task is to support your people. You succeed only when your team succeeds.

2. Both parties must come to the meeting prepared with the updated information you need to discuss the current reality.

Briefly discuss each project the individual is accountable for and get a status update. Is the staff member on schedule to have it completed by the due date? If not, why not? Briefly discuss each Key Performance Indicator the worker is accountable for and get a status update. The score doesn’t lie. Are the numbers where they need to be? If not, why not? This is not a blame session; rather it is a consultation to make sure both parties are fully aware of the current situation.

3. Ask the person what tangible action they will “complete” this week to move each goal forward (or address any issues that have been identified above).

Agree on the chosen action(s) and capture them in writing in your task management tool of choice. (We recommend Business Execution Software.) Be specific about each task that needs to be done and the due date for each task. Writing down each task clearly signals to the employee what is important to you, and it helps to focus their efforts on the right things each week.

4. Follow up to make sure each task gets checked off as done.

You get what you inspect. Holding people firmly accountable for honoring their commitments to you is crucial if you want to create a high performance culture. This is not micro-managing – you give the person the freedom and autonomy to go away and determine how best to achieve each task, but you definitely follow up each week to close the loop and make sure it got done.

5. Ask what support or resources they need from you to help them succeed?

As a manager, you need to put the right people together and clear the obstacles from their paths to enable the most important tasks to be completed. You also need to keep out of their way and not overwhelm them with too many demands or conflicting priorities. Shield them from distractions to create the time and space for the most important tasks to get done every week.

6. Ask if there are any other issues that they would like to raise?

How are they feeling? Are there any minor grievances that are bugging them? What’s going on in their life right now? Take a sincere interest in them and their life outside of work.

7. Share any issues or feelings you would like to raise.

Performance reviews are not an annual thing. Let your people know every week how they are performing both in terms of the data and what you have personally observed. Let them know that you are on their side. Demonstrate your commitment to helping them succeed.

8. Finish on a high note.

Find something they are doing well and acknowledge it. Praise is most effective if you commend the specific behaviors you want to see reinforced; for example, “I was impressed with the detailed research you did on this project and the long hours you put in to get the report done on time.”

Are you ready to try conducting weekly 1 on 1 meetings with each of your direct reports? I guarantee that if you make it happen, it will make you a better manager. It will enable both parties to understand each other better and stay focused on the important issues. And it will greatly improve your business execution success.

About the Author: This guest post was written by Stephen Lynch, the Chief Operating Officer of RESULTS.com – the business execution experts. RESULTS.com offers Business Execution Software and consulting services to help mid-sized growth firms achieve better business results.

  1. Stephen, great article. It reminds of the internal study that Google conducted which showed that their best managers are great coaches who find ways to empower and develop their people. I believe the coaching can happen online and via email but happens most intensely in these 1-on-1 meetings.

  2. Excellent post. One-on-one manager/employee meetings is something that is overlooked in many companies today, and it’s a shame, as they are a great way to get things done, and to motivate employees.
    Another manager/employee meeting that is just as important is the yearly or quarterly review meeting – we’ve written a post on that, which you can read here:
    http://meetingking.com/tips-effective-personnel-performance-review-meetings/

  3. This is great advice as most managers do not take the time to step back from the day to day problem solving to work strategically as suggested here. I just posted a blog and video about doing this by using a job description as a way to spark these types of meetings. Here is the link to the article http://www.optimusperformance.ca/blog/how-to-use-a-job-description-to-improve-staff-performance-410

  4. I couldn’t agree more. One-on-ones should be right at the top of the priority list as a manager, but so often they are the first thing to be cut when schedules are tight.

    My 2 cents – status updates can be covered effectively through a written weekly status report, with the majority of the one-on-one focussing on understanding how the team member is faring. That said, the two go hand in hand, and the written report can serve to provide structure to the meeting. This is covered in more detail here:
    http://reportify.com.au/posts/how-to-keep-pace-with-your-team

  5. Status updates and checkins with your employees let them know that you value their opinion. It is important that it does not become a complaint airing session.

  6. In business if you are not giving value to your employees and do not share any thing with them then you should run a very successful business.

  7. Hey!
    You have shared a list of useful tip. specially point #5.” Ask what support or resources they need from you to help them succeed?” is really interesting one and helpful as well.
    I really enjoyed the whole post.
    Thanks.
    Matt

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