21 - One on One
The One on One (1:1) is an individual meeting between a manager and her direct reports. It’s usually a 30-min to 60-min long meeting which occurs on a regular basis like once a week, or every other week.
It became almost standard in our industry. And even if it’s not a common practice in your company, I would advise you to set a regular 1:1 with each of your reports.
The 1:1, when it’s properly done, is an extremely powerful tool. The 1:1 is the meeting dedicated to your teammate, the moment chosen to talk about him, about his progress, about his challenges.
Spending regular time together contributes to creating a stronger relationship. It will support establishing a reciprocal trust, sharing the same understanding, being aligned on each other’s expectations.
I recommend you to have a small template to run these meetings, and to keep track of all these meeting notes and related actions. For instance, I create a shared space between me and each of my reports to keep the record of the meetings.
I personally expect this meeting to be prepared in advance. I encourage my report to write down during the week any question he may have, any topic on which he may need help or guidance. All the topics he wants to discuss are listed in the shared space.
During the meeting, you need to actively listen to the different topics and to ask questions to ensure you have the same understanding.
This meeting is the perfect opportunity to assess together what can be improved, to set and follow different actions, to identify learning opportunities. Be extremely clear on your expectations, and make sure they’re well understood.
Share some constructive feedback and ask for feedback in return. Ask your teammate how you can help him.
Giving negative feedback is difficult, you may find good excuses to not do it or to postpone. Keep in mind that if you’re not sharing this feedback, you give zero chance of improvement to the teammate.
Break the bad news, be very open, and discuss together what he needs to work on. Prepare yourself to do it, make sure you have the elements, that you’re able to properly explain, and that you’ll have time to discuss. Don’t wait for the last minute of the meeting to disclose the touchy topics, don’t sugarcoat it with good news.
Always keep in mind to avoid blaming a teammate publicly, discuss the problem individually with him. The exception being when you see inappropriate or unethical behavior. If you say nothing, you tacitly accept this behavior that can be extremely toxic for the culture.
These meetings can also be run in a very informal way. For a long time, I used to do them while walking with each teammate. This format was less adapted to leverage the preparation, to keep track of the previous discussions and to capture the non-verbal communication. However, it worked pretty well.
The most important aspect here is to actively invest your time into the individual growth of each teammate.