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7 Tips I Wish I Knew Before My First One-on-One Meeting with Employees

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One-on-one meetings, face to face meetings, or check-in meetings, whatever you may call them, having individual-focused conversations with each employee on your team is an essential part of leadership. 

When you’re new to a leadership role, having one-on-one meetings may be on your to-do list because “that’s what leaders do.” One-on-one meetings should be more than a check the box activity though as they can provide great benefits to both you and your employee. When done well, one-on-one meetings are a time to connect on a human level, build rapport and trust, work through challenges, and celebrate success. It is dedicated time for your employee to feel supported, cared for, and heard.

Whether it’s your first meeting with employees as a new manager or you have many years of experience leading a team of employees, here are 7 tips to help you amplify the impact of your next one-on-one meeting with employees.

 

It's not About You

One-on-one meetings with each employee is their time. It’s dedicated time for face to face communication with you to seek advice, get clarity on deliverables, receive coaching, and share career aspirations. The goal of these meetings is to empower your employees. The onus is on them to set the agenda and seek out what they need. By doing this, the focus shifts to them to drive the meeting and meet their needs.

 

Why Listening is important

Everyone wants to feel heard, especially our employees. In one survey, 88% of employees surveyed said they value managers who listen to them, however, only 61% of employees said they get that from their boss.

Successful leaders are good listeners. As leaders, we want to jump in to solve problems, offer advice, and develop alternative solutions. However, we need to first hear the employee's perspective, gain understanding, and most importantly, make them feel heard. When leaders step back and let employees have the floor in check-in meetings it signals respect, builds trust, and shows an openness for alternative perspectives.


Understand the meeting objective

Check-ins with your employees should be exactly that, a time for you to touch base to get an update. It is a good opportunity to deliver continuous performance management where you discuss project progress, performance against annual targets, and develop action plans to meet their desired career trajectory.

The meeting objective should not be treated as a performance review. That’s a different time where formal discussion happens with ratings of accomplishments are delivered and new goals or determined for the upcoming year.

Run more effective one-on-one meetings with employees as a leader with this  free toolkit.

Prepare Before Your One On One Meeting

As much as the face to face meeting with your employee is their time, they will look to you to lead the meeting. With that in mind, you should have ask some open-ended questions prepared to kick off the meeting, such as: 

  • How would you like to use this time?
  • Is there anything preventing you from achieving your goals?
  • What has changed since we last met?

These questions help frame the conversation against what your employee would like to accomplish in your time together. Come prepared to share your thoughts or feedback and with questions to get updates on a particular task or situation. 

 

Use the Time to Build Relationship

An often overlooked but incredibly important aspect of one-on-one meetings is the opportunity to build relationships with your employees. It’s a chance to learn about them not only professionally but personally. Asking questions about what they enjoy and how they spend their time away from work is an important process of building relationships. When you ask questions it shows a genuine interest in them as a person. This builds trust and as such will increase the likelihood of an employee offering suggestions and raising concerns in future check-in meetings.

 

Get Feedback from Employees

An important question to ask in your one-on-one meetings is “Can you give me some feedback?” No, this does not make you look weak, needy, or uncertain of your own skills. It creates an atmosphere of trust where feedback can be delivered by both you and the employee without any defensiveness. If feedback is delivered only one way can be perceived as a negative experience, not as an opportunity for growth.

One study looked at 360-degree assessments to see if there was a correlation between leaders who asked for feedback and leadership effectiveness. They found top-ranked leaders who scored at the 83rd percentile on leadership effectiveness were also at the top for asking for constructive feedback. Feedback should be viewed as a gift where someone has the courage to provide input on something you may not necessarily see.

 

Show appreciation 

Everyone wants to know they’re doing a good job and feel appreciated. Check-in meetings are a great time to deliver positive reinforcement, as many employees crave this kind of recognition from their leader and are motivated by it. In fact, it was found that nearly 75% of employees said great managers praise and communicate appreciation for their work and contributions. So, don’t save your praise for an annual review or the completion of a large goal; find small things to thank your employee for such as meeting a deadline or the quality of work provided.’

 

Conclusion: One-on-One Meetings Are a Key Leadership Tool

Clearly, one-on-one meetings between leaders and employees are much more than just a “check the box” activity. They are a real opportunity to connect, provide support, and develop employees. This requires leaders to hone their active listening, meetings management, and communication skills, which can be done through various training programs.

Download the free leadership toolkit for one-on-one meetings with employees