5 Secrets of Successful One-On-One Meetings

Article main image
Oct 24, 2016

One clear distinction between engaged and disengaged organizations is the fact that they are more likely to hold regular one-on-one meetings. Quantum Workplace reviewed 300 employer survey responses and found 85.7% of highly engaged companies hold one-on-one meetings compared to just 50% of highly disengaged ones.

These companies aren’t just throwing meetings together, they have set plans for what needs to happen during the meeting in order for it to be truly successful. Here are five important characteristics of great one-on-one meetings:

1. Set clear boundaries and expectations

Interaction time with bossManagers are busy ensuring employees are productive and meeting goals, but it’s important to make time for open discussions as well. From January to May 2014, Leadership IQ surveyed 32,410 executives, managers, and employees finding 57% of employees spend fewer than five hours a week directly interacting with their immediate superior. However, engagement peaks at six hours of interaction a week.

One-on-ones offer the perfect time for managers to get to know their employees’ individual needs. Creating a safe place for employees to express their needs creates a trusting relationship with employers.

Trust opens the door for employers and employees to have open communication about their needs and expectations for each other. For instance, an employee can explain what management style works best for them. This allows the manager to clarify what role they expect the employee to play and how to improve performance based upon this new understanding.

2. Encourage note taking

Most of us are on information overload so sometimes, when we’re sitting in a meeting, it’s hard to stay focused. Note taking is essential for reviewing a meeting, but it also lets the presenter know you’re mentally present and interested. In fact, recent survey done by Post It revealed 56% of employees believe someone isn’t really paying attention in a meeting if they aren’t actively taking notes.

When both parties take notes during a one-on-one, it’s a sign that the words and ideas are actively being processed on both sides. By taking notes and exchanging them at the end of the meeting, both the manager and employee can see that they are on the same page. If there are any misunderstandings or misalignments, they can quickly be ironed out.

3. Make them true to your culture

Scheduled one-on-one meetings shouldn’t be overly formal if the culture of your company isn’t. The way team members interact shouldn’t change during a one-on-one meeting. Rather, integrate these meetings into the company’s culture to resemble the typical management style.

If note taking on the spot doesn’t appeal to you or your employees, consider a quick email recap of what was discussed. Even consider taking a meeting outside the office. If your company highly values fitness, incorporate that by having a walking meeting.

If relationships are important in your organization, spend the first few minutes catching up on each other’s lives. Keep the flow of conversation as comfortable and productive as possible by removing the common awkward elements of a rigid one-on-one.

4. Hold them on neutral territory

If your goal is to have an open conversation with employees, it’s better to hold one-on-ones somewhere they feel comfortable speaking freely. The surroundings are as important as the general atmosphere of the meeting.

Managers’ offices and conference rooms can make employees feel like they’ve been called into the principal’s office, especially when there’s a large desk between the employee and manager. Employees who feel at ease will be more willing to offer honest feedback.

Try holding the meeting in a comfortable place like a coffee shop or the office lounge to make your employees feel more relaxed.

5. Follow upPost-It meeting notetaking survey

There’s nothing more counterproductive than leaving a meeting not understanding what your next steps need to be. The Post It survey found 51% of employees report forgetting the purpose of a meeting while in it and 26% have forgotten a task that was assigned to them during a meeting.

Ending a meeting with detailed list of next-steps for both parties is important, but follow-up increases accountability that things will actually move forward. Following up after a meeting also gives employees tools to deal with any issues that might arise between meetings.