A few things to keep in mind when having a 1:1 with your employee.
It’s important to remember that the meeting is about the employee -- how they’re feeling about work, what challenges they’re facing, what ideas they have for improving the workplace, what personal problems they are experiencing, how they want to grow their career and develop new skills. The entire conversation should be focused on the employee with the goal of showing the employee that you’re hearing what they’re saying, giving them the feedback (and recognition) that they deserve, and showing that the company values their contributions.
The conversation should start by asking what’s on the employee's mind; the employee should own the agenda and generally dictate the flow of the conversation. When the discussion starts to slow down, it’s on the manager to start asking employee-centric questions that draw key issues out of the employee. This is especially important for introverted employees who are hesitant to open up.
In the day-to-day shuffle, it’s easy to think about 1:1s as non essential meetings, especially when they’re not directly related to the bottom line or client work. But this is the absolutely wrong way to think about 1:1s. Remembering the advice of Andy Grove, managers must engage in high-leverage activities and 1:1s are an essential tool to increase leverage. A 30min conversation with your employee can go a long way in making sure their on track and happy with their job.
Most 1:1s last between 30 and 60mins. Put the time on your calendar and do your best to not cancel. If for some reason you can’t make it, always reschedule. Not only will this show employees that they’re a top priority but will also improve the work product and efficiency of the team.
Productive meetings take preparation and 1:1s are no exception. Since it’s the employees meeting, it’s on them to own the agenda and prepare ahead of time. The employee should decide how they want to use the time with their manager.
At Lattice, we’ve found it helpful to have consistent opening questions each week to get the conversation flowing --
Ahead of the meeting, the employee should answer a few questions to help get them thinking about what they want to talk about.
Often times the conversation during a 1:1 stagnates -- it was a slow week, so there was no big roadblocks or the employee is an introvert who is hesitant to open up. This is where it’s time for the manager to start asking questions to draw out the key issues from employees. Some questions we’ve found effective:
Short and Long Term Goals
Besides asking leading questions, another good tactic to get employees to open up is a change in scenery -- go for a walk, get a cup of coffee, walk around an art museum. This change of pace will help managers build rapport, which will make the employees comfortable enough to open up.
If you’re running a successful 1:1, then each week the manager will uncover different challenges and opportunities about the employee. This can range from a desire to grow a new skill to a problem they’re experiencing on a particular project. It’s essential to follow up on any issues in subsequent 1:1s. This shows the employees that you truly care about their concerns because you took the time (and remembered) to address their needs.
Take notes during a 1:1, so you remember the issues raised and appropriate action items. At Lattice, we use our Check-in tool to add some structure to 1:1s and help managers follow up, but a running Google doc also works. Either way - make sure you follow up.