1-on-1 meetings, done properly

In one of my previous articles, “The good, the bad, and the problematic I recommended performing 1-on-1 sessions. This is the case for every team member.

I believe that a great manager should also be a mentor and a coacher. In the tech world from which I am coming, people may believe that technical skills are the most important factor for an R&D manager. Well, it should be both. If you cannot be both at the same time, have yourself a technical leader. I am sure that at least 1 member in your team is able and have a great desire to become one.

Being a mentor/coacher means making your people better. Helping them fulfill their potential by both nurturing their strengths and helping them understand how to deal with their weaknesses.
The better manager you are, the better and faster is your team improvement.

1-on-1 sessions are meant to:

  • Increase your awareness regarding the employee’s level of satisfaction.
  • Encourage the employee for self-improvement.
  • Know his desires and aspirations.
  • Establishing trust and open communication.

The structure

The first meetings:

1. Set expectations.

Since you will discuss what should be improved, you both should expect these meeting to be focused on the negatives. It should be perceived as constructive, fine and maybe even exciting. Discussing negatives while being in the right mindset, will lead to positive outcomes.

2. Spot and define the negatives.

The negatives are setbacks. They are the lack of knowledge and/or soft skill which denies you from making a great progress. Once spotted and well defined, those will be the bullets made of stone, which will be discussed in the future 1-on-1s.

3. Set long terms goals.

The goals should be the combination of his and your expectations.


Ongoing meetings:

These 30 minutes reoccurring 1-on-1 meetings (I make them every third week) should be structured and expected. You both should come prepared.

1. Make the person feel comfortable.

Begin with a small talk. A right state of mind is crucial for producing constructive (positive) and open conversation.

2. Make a short reminder.

About what has been discussed in the previous meeting.

3. Analyze the period since the previous meeting.

What could have done better? What have been improved? Discussing real life scenarios makes a lot of difference. Rather than keeping it theoretical.

4. Set short-term goals

Along with the action items that will help to achieve them. Each meeting should produce some kind of a feasibly increment in the improvement graph.

5. Summarize

Wrap up everything that been discussed. Make sure that the everything is clear and you are both on the same line.


Important notes:

  • You are both partners in this process. Take an active part by monitoring and guiding through it. His success is your success.
  • Let him lead the conversation. Ask more, answer less.
  • Remember and remind that challenges are nothing but opportunities to improve.
  • Unless a white-board is required, prefer an informal location rather than a meeting room.
  • Discuss the work status only if it is used as an indicator for a desired improvement. Else, it is out of these meetings’ scope.
  • Take notes, and encourage your partner to do the same.