Home > Performance Management, Working with People > One-on-One Meetings: The Power of People Connection

One-on-One Meetings: The Power of People Connection

February 24th, 2011

oneonone_coach[This post is part of the Performance Management: A Manager's Guide to Managing Talent series. Check out the rest here!]

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As managers, we are often barraged with one meeting after another – staff meetings, project meetings, tactical meetings, strategic meetings, budget meetings, operations reviews – the list goes on and on.

However, one meeting I hold near and dear to my heart, is the one-on-one meeting.  This is the meeting I appreciate the most with my boss, and the one I value the most with my direct reports.  Not only do I value these meetings, but I truly enjoy them as a manager.

One-on-one meetings allow me to make a real connection with each person on my team.  I can become a problem solver, a coach, an advisor, an influencer, or even an enabler.  This is one meeting where I feel like I can make a real difference to individuals.

In this post, I share some common practices around having one-on-one meetings and why I think should consider implementing them immediately. I also share some thoughts and perspectives I’ve picked-up from fellow managers.

One of the benefits of doing a blog focused on management, is the opportunity to connect with other managers and leaders to get their opinions on the “management craft”.  Through these discussions, I always learn a new perspectives.  The topic of one-on-one meetings was no exception.

The biggest surprise I came across was how many managers don’t have regular one-on-one meetings.  They believe team meetings give them the necessary updates.  And any one-on-one meeting should be focused only on performance and/or goal review discussions.

The other area I heard varying views on is the meaning and agenda of the one-on-one meeting itself.  Some managers saw the one-on-one meeting to primarily benefit the manager by focusing updates on group status, delegated tasks and cover any burning issues.  Other manager’s saw the one-on-one meeting as the focus being on what the employee wanted to cover. The manager’s primary role was to provide coaching and guidance.

In terms of formality and agenda, some managers believed in prescriptive agendas for their one-on-ones, while others followed a much less structured format.

Regardless of beliefs in formality of agenda or who’s the primary benefactor, there are some commonalities most managers agreed on:

  1. it’s an opportunity to connect individually
  2. should occur on a regular cadence (e.g., weekly, biweekly, etc.)
  3. should be scheduled in advance (i.e. standard day/time)
  4. should have mutual benefit (i.e., should carve out time to talk about what you want to discuss and what they want to discuss.) 
  5. used as an opportunity to build rapport, gauge morale, identify potential burnout, talk through key issues, etc.
  6. while provides coaching opportunities, these should not be confused with development conversations

For me personally, I’ve found one-on-one discussions can be a great forum to ask probing questions and get feedback on an initiative I may be considering.  I also use these meetings to help build consensus on strategies coming down, in which I believe may require additional handling and/or positioning to gain consensus.

    During my conversations with other managers, the one overwhelming area of agreement is regular one-on-one meetings should not be confused with development or goals discussions.  Those meetings should be set-up separately with the  focus dedicated to reviewing goals and development progress, as well providing any necessary coaching.

If you manage people and don’t have one-on-one meetings, you may want to consider getting these in place as quickly as possible.  Feel free to experiment on format and agenda.  The most important thing is you are taking the time to focus and connect with your team on an individual basis.

QUESTION:  Do you leverage one-on-one meetings as a manager?  If so, what do you do to get the most value out of them? If not, why?

  1. February 26th, 2011 at 12:58 | #1

    Chuck, great insight to a very important activity for an executive leader.

    I do hold weekly one-on-one with my staff. These meetings are setup all year long. This time with my direct reports allow me to do a number of things, but most important it gives them a chance to discuss key topics in a comfortable environment. I leave the format open to them and allow them to discuss what ever is on their mind. I always use this time to provide feedback on their behavior observed directly by me or by others who has discussed with me. We discuss the good and bad behaviors as it is my job to coach and grow leaders.

    I use this time to discuss topics that provide my managers the opportunity to stretch their leadership and strategic minds. I am not particularly looking for them to discuss typical issues, risks, accomplishments and initiatives within their organizations in these meetings as these are covered in our day to day activities and discussed at our staff meetings with the team. This is one-on-one time. I want to hear what is on their mind, coach them where necessary and/or stretch their minds in a conversation. I also ask for feedback about my performance and behaviors.

    These meetings add a lot of value as they build relationships, trust and most importantly continuity. To be successful at driving vision and strategy it is critical that your direct managers believe in it and trust that you believe in them.

    • Chuck Hebert
      February 26th, 2011 at 17:04 | #2

      Keith – I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for sharing!!

  2. August 17th, 2011 at 08:44 | #3

    1:1 meetings are a Leadership Strategy I could not be as effective to lead, motivate, or inspire my direct reports to be all they can be… I use a very simple template made up 4 quadrants: Current Week Accomplishments; Next Week Accomplishments (depends on how often 1:1) I do every other week so we aren’t twiddling thumbs-which noticed if I did them each week… plus a large number of directs will kill your time management efforts. Next quadrant is Upcoming Events/Initiatives/Projects/Meetings; last quadrant- Concerns/Issues/Questions/ Resources Needed, etc

    This has worked well for the 2 yrs I’ve used this format… one thing I do is hold directs to schedule or reschedule, and make sure they know it’s their time!!

  3. September 1st, 2011 at 00:04 | #4

    We do 1:1 meetings with my direct manager every week, but Im the one setting the agenda. Could you tell me some ideas to put on the agenda? Thanks.

  4. Matías Giorgio
    October 20th, 2011 at 14:31 | #5

    Great post, really enjoy reading it.
    I, as a leader, have biweekly 1:1 meeting with my manager and I am going to start making them with people on the team I lead. I think it’s going to help me on getting them more engaged and motivated. I don’t think it would be necessary for project issues as we have other meetings for that.

    @Arnie Sumalde: I found this template that might be interesting for you: https://www.manager-tools.com/podcasts/Manager-Tools_One_on_One_Basics.pdf


  5. Matías Giorgio
    October 20th, 2011 at 14:31 | #6

    Great post, really enjoyed reading it.
    I, as a leader, have biweekly 1:1 meeting with my manager and I am going to start making them with people on the team I lead. I think it’s going to help me on getting them more engaged and motivated. I don’t think it would be necessary for project issues as we have other meetings for that.

    @Arnie Sumalde: I found this template that might be interesting for you: https://www.manager-tools.com/podcasts/Manager-Tools_One_on_One_Basics.pdf


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  8. Xavier Prasanna
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    This article is so helpful to maintain a significant rapport btween my subordinates. Thanks!!!:)

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