Run successful One-One meetings
We improve each other through mentoring and coaching
We care for each other
We flourish through differences
I’m currently head of design, leading a team of 4 amazing people : 3 designers and 1 user researcher. As manager, I consider that my mission is to support and encourage them. They have to know that I’m here to help them to become better everyday, to give them the best work environment possible, and all tools they need to improve their own skills and careers.
So, weekly One-One meetings are one of the main management tool I focus on in order to follow up with the team member.
If you wonder how to improve your One-One meetings quality, this article is made for you!
We have built together our own framework : lean, simple and super efficient. Following it, plus some basics, had strong benefits:
- Each team member progresses in both hard and soft skills
- Mentorship between teammates has been created
- I improved a lot my own management skills
Our One-One meeting framework
Before the meeting
Schedule it weekly and never cancel without good reason and explanation.
Sometimes as manager we can forget or cancel at the last minute a meeting, thinking the coworker won’t be negatively impacted, mostly when they do a good job and we are confident about their work. But in fact cancelling or forgetting these meetings can be a disaster, because it sends an unconscious message like: “I don’t care about you, you’re not important”. It can be perceived by the coworkers as disrespectful or can break their self-confident, mostly if it happens many times. Silence is a management mistake. When people don’t understand, they tempt to imagine. So if they start to imagine your reasons to cancel a 1:1 without explanation, it will always be worse than the truth. Mostly when the coworker has prepared the meeting and topics to discuss.
Call them “One-One meetings” and nothing else.
If you call it a “syncro” for example, or “task validation meeting”, the coworker will come in a mood focus on the context of the title. So keep it neutral.
Be willing to have difficult conversations.
One-One are about a relationship between coworker and manager based on honesty and transparency. So you both should be able to communicate together about the good as the critic points, about your weakness, lack of skills…
If every One-One meeting of a coworker are always 100% optimistic, with no pain point neither challenges to discuss, here you have a management problem. The perfect employee in a perfect job with perfect teammates and perfect missions perfectly done just doesn’t exist. So it means that the coworker doesn’t talk to you about everything and you have to figure out why.
Tips: Don’t wait to tackle a critic situation. If you have identify a difficulty, a problem, anything that could impact negatively a coworker or the entire team, don’t wait to do the 1:1. You can reschedule it advance. The more you wait, bigger the problem will be.
Ask coworkers to prepare the topics they want to discuss.
One-One are a privileged moment, where coworkers are focus on improving their skills and career. It’s the moment they have to work on themselves to become a better version as coworker and team member. So it is their responsibility to work on it, and be prepared. They should never come in One-One with nothing to talk about.
Tips: you can ask them to send you the topics list the day before. Doing this exercise will make One-One preparation part of their weekly routine.
During the One-One meeting
Keep It Informal
When meetings are too official people feel less comfortable to talk about their own difficulties. Keeping the One-One informal allows to create a less stressful context. And One-One meetings success is based on the quality of your relationship with each member of your team. If you want them to feel free to talk about anything with you, you have to set the right context for it. You can make it in a meeting room but also having a coffee in a sofa, or even outside the office during a walk or at a café. Especially when there is any difficulty to talk about. The place helps to feel more confident.
Be 100% focus
I know you already know that, but I also know many managers who check their smartphones several times during their One-One meetings. Well… Don’t do that. Just don’t. Be here. Be focus.
If you don’t, again, it sends a subliminal message:”I don’t care.” It is disrespectful even if you didn’t want to. And why someone would talk to you, trust you, if you don’t even seem to listen?
Build a framework for good follow up
Here is the framework I follow with my team. A simple Google Sheet, that we keep private between the two of us, and that we use for every One-One meeting. Each team member has access to her/his own file, and can check it anytime.
This document is also a witness to the improvement of the team member.
- Date of the day
- Mood: Ask the coworker how she/he feels in few words
- Topics: the coworkers starts with the topics they want to talk about. Let them take the lead. It is their moment. Then only, add your own topics if you have any.
- Highlights: List together the good points of the week (it can be anything coming from them or from you). As with the topics, the coworker begin. Cause they have to identify by themselves what worked well, the success they achieved, the improvement they made, any good thing that deserve to be highlighted.
- Improvement targets /challenges: As with the highlights, but for the skills to improve or challenges. Let the coworker start, and then only give them your feedback. Pay attention to the way you give them this kind of feedback. It must be constructive. The coworker should take your feedback as motivating or inspiring points to focus on or to target.
- Action: for each targeted improvement or challenge, give to the coworker a doable action that you will follow the week after. Give them the keys to solve the problem by themselves, based on your advices. Be a mentor.
- About manager: Ask your coworker feedbacks about you.
It certainly will be difficult for them to be honest at the first time. And maybe they will say things like “Good, ok, nothing special…” at first. Sometimes they can also tempt to minimize things you do not-so-well. If so, explain that you won’t get upset, and that you can’t progress as manager if they don’t give you feedbacks. As team you have to help each other to become better, no matter it is in bottom-up or top-to-bottom direction. Another way to get feedbacks from your coworkers, if they struggle to be direct with you, is to ask them what they thought about a situation. Talking about facts can be easier. For example: “What do you think of my reaction yesterday during the design review?” or “What is your opinion regarding the last workshop we did together?”. Personally, this point made me progress a lot, especially on my soft skills. And it had a great impact on my relationship with my team. Also it reinforced our mutual trust.
- Comment: add free comment if needed
Yes, I know… It sound obvious. But I’ve heard so many times about One-One looking like a validation-taks-meeting, where the coworker feels infantilized, or where the managers did micro-management, rather than just be an open conversation. Being kind is about having empathy and listening and sometimes, as manager, being able to guess that something goes wrong. With kindness and empathy, you give the coworker a safe space to talk, and it is one of the key to build a relationship based on trust.
Talk about careers once in a while
Talking about career during One-One meetings helps coworkers to project themselves in the company for the long term. Then as manager, you’ll be able to help, guide, advise the person on her/his career, and this will reinforce your relationship.
So you have to precise to your team that One-One meetings are also done for that.
After the meeting
Closely guard the Action-Per-Decision ratio
If you talk about problems, challenges, skills to improve…. anything that necessitate a follow up, then follow it! For real. Cause if you don’t, then the discussion would be useless.
Keep it confidential
As mentioned, One-One are based on trusted, honest and reliable relationship. Your team needs to trust you to talk freely. So it is very important to keep it confidential.
Set the next 1:1 based on the previous one
The success of One-One meetings depends on your capacity to follow coworkers progression. So it is important to note, take actions-per-decisions, and to compare each week with the previous one.