How to hold one-to-one meetings with your team members

Do you hold regular one-to-one meetings with your direct reports? And if you do, how effective are they? We look at what you can do to improve those meetings, and offer you an informative one-page guide to download.

Occasionally we hear comments such as ‘Oh yes, we have regular one-to-one meetings because we go to client meetings in the same taxi’ or ‘There’s no need for us to have one-to-one meetings in the diary, because we’re both in the office at 8 am so we catch up then’. In some organisations the only way to have this sort of one-to-one meeting is to ‘take them out for lunch’. This is both very time consuming and a disaster for the waist-line!

Leaders in organisations do sometimes resist the idea of scheduling one-to-ones on the basis that they’re too busy, and the trips in the taxi and the chat at the coffee machine in the morning will do the job. But this is simply not the case.

Regular one-to-one meetings that are set up and conducted properly are a highly effective management tool. They act as an early warning system because your direct report knows that they will have this regular opportunity to talk to you in private. They will tell you things you need to know, that you might not hear otherwise.

Have you ever lost a good employee simply because you didn’t pick up the warning signs before it was too late? The one-to-one meeting is also the time when you can review their performance and set goals with them. This means that they (and therefore the organisation) are continually moving forward.

Most leaders do now recognise that they need to schedule regular one-to-one time with members of their team, but quite often there is confusion about what the focus of these meetings should be. An important distinction is that these meetings are for you and your direct report to be working on the business rather than in the business. They are time efficient (30 – 40 minutes ideally) with a clear agenda that allows for personal updates (at the very least a check that everything outside of work is OK) and then a discussion of their progress against their performance objectives.

The leadership communication style is that of a coach. This means asking open questions and being an active listener. Let your team member supply the answers, come up with solutions and generally do most of the work. This isn’t a formal meeting (no notes need to go to HR unless this is performance management) and it doesn’t require huge follow up. We would recommend that your team member takes notes and together you agree what their next steps are towards their performance goals. These next steps are recorded and you agree the date of your next one-to-one meeting. (We would recommend that these meetings are held monthly). It’s also important that you don’t cancel the meetings or allow them to be interrupted.

One of your objectives as a leader is to engage the people in your organisation. By holding these meetings you place a premium on the time spent with the individual and they will feel valued and more engaged as a consequence.

Looking for some additional help with structuring your meetings with individual team members?

one to one meetings