How I Run One-on-Ones

One-on-one meetings with your staff are key to maintaining clear lines of communication and an healthy team culture.

Early-on when building my team, I wasn’t doing one-on-ones. I was busy and the team was small. But soon it became clear these sessions needed to happen—balls getting dropped and miscommunication.

To get started, I booked the first meeting for a full hour. I explain the purpose of the meetings—dedicated time for us to talk about progress, problems, and goals. I quickly went over yearly business goals and team goals then we got down to business at hand. After this first session, we went to 30 minutes and everyone knew what to expect.

Ground Rules

Don’t Cancel the Meeting

This is the number one rule of one-on-ones. This time is sacred. It’s protected. Your team needs to know that even if they didn’t get time to raise a concern earlier, or if the morning standup wasn’t the right place, that they still have this 30 minutes to talk about anything they want.

Maybe nothing happened since the last meeting. Maybe you blow through all your touch-point questions in 5 minutes. That’s fine. Just chat. Your both humans, with similar interests. Build a strong bond with the time remaining.

Just Chat

You don’t have to be all-business, all the time. Be sure to catch up on their life, their sport’s team achievements, adjustment to the city, etc. This means you don’t end early. Fill the time with smiles and building the relationship.

No Computers

I break this rule, but only because I’m making notes or to-do items. Otherwise, my attention is fully fixed on them. This is a small thing, but it makes a huge impact on trust and communication.

Follow Up

Did you assign yourself a task last meeting? Well, did you do it? Did they do theirs? These conversations are to help improve each other and the team. And that means holding each other accountable and doing the things we said we were going to do. Good, sustaining culture doesn’t happen by accident.

Questions To Get Things Started

How’s it going?

General status check, but I don’t accept ‘fine’ as an answer. Dig a bit to make sure you’re getting a real status check. Could be personal or project.

What should change? What should stay the same? What do you want more of?

It’s important you keep a pulse on culture and team satisfaction. Questions like these can start to uncover changes that make impacts.

What's one thing we can change for you to be more effective?

We all strive to be more effective. But as their manager, you can actually make this happen. Listen to your team, remove blockers, watch them flourish.

What 10% thing do you want to work on?

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Let teams solve new problems in their own ways. These small projects can lead to new initiatives, products, and better processes. I only ask my team to limit these projects to one at a time, and it results in something useful for the business.