Why 1:1s are important and how to run one

Why 1:1s are important and how to run one

Strengthen manager-employee relationships with a weekly 1:1

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All Resources How to run a successful 1:1

How to run a successful 1:1

A few things to keep in mind when having a 1:1 with your employee.

Make it about them

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.

Create a schedule and stick to it

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.

Ask for an agenda

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 --

  • What did you focus on this week?
  • What are your plans and priorities for next week?
  • What challenges or roadblocks do you need help with?
  • Is there anything else on your mind?

Ahead of the meeting, the employee should answer a few questions to help get them thinking about what they want to talk about.

Get them to open up

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

  • How can we help improve your day-to-day work?
  • How are you feeling about the project?
  • What do you want to work on next quarter?
  • A year from now, what do you want to have accomplished?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?

Company Improvement

  • What’s the biggest opportunity that we’re not thinking about?
  • How can the team work better together? Where are we failing? Where are we succeeding?
  • What’s your least favorite thing about the product?
  • How are you feeling about the company’s future? Why do you say that?
  • If you were the CEO, what changes would you make?

Career Development

  • Do you feel like we’re helping to advance your career? What else can I be doing to help grow your career?
  • Do you feel like you’re learning at work?
  • What projects are you most proud of? What do you want to work on next?
  • If you were not a [position], what do you want to be?
  • What’s a professional development project you’d like to pursue?

Manager Suggestions

  • How can I be a better manager?
  • How can I make your work easier?
  • What areas of your work do you want more/less direction from me?
  • What additional resources do you need?
  • How can we improve these 1:1s?

Job Satisfaction

  • Are you happy?
  • What’s not fun about working here?
  • Do you feel like you have a good work-life balance?
  • I’ve noticed you’re a little (adjective) than usual. Is there anything you want to talk about?
  • What do you want to do but don’t feel like you have the time for?

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.

Take Notes and Follow 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.