Why one-one-ones are important and how to conduct them.
One-on-ones are one of the top tools for people engagement because it helps build a professional relationship with your direct, allows for coaching, feedback and it provides you with an opportunity to check in with employee.
I remember when I did my first one-on-one with one of my direct reports. The meeting lasted about 90 minutes which caught me by surprise because I thought I spent enough time with my team. I practiced walk around management a style I learned in the military and found it to be quite effective. The downside is that often you shift to crisis management. Knowing that you have a set amount of time each week with every team member gives one the opportunity to touch base with every person on the team.
A general rule of thumb for one-on-ones is 30 minutes each week per team member; however, some like one-hour meetings. I think 30 minutes is more manageable if they need to be moved around and I also think it decreases the chance of them being canceled. Try not to cancel one-on-ones even when you are traveling. With technology such as cells phones and video conferencing apps they are easy to do on the road. I once had a boss who didn’t do them when they traveled and consequently a month would go by before the next one. It sends a message when you cancel or are consistently late that the 1:1 is not important.
One-on-ones was always a priority for me because it was the direct report’s time. The Manager Tools model suggests 10 minutes for my direct, 10 minutes for me, and 10 minutes for development. Usually I would implement 20 minutes for the direct and 10 minutes for me, which might include some feedback and coaching. I would sometimes extend the 1:1 if we needed to have a developmental conversation.
All in all, let the employee drive the agenda; you can learn a lot when several 1:1’s go by and a key project is not mentioned. Utilize the 1:1 for feedback; I had an employee who used some of his 1:1 time to get feedback on his resume and help develop his internal network. He was promoted shortly after. You would be shocked at the things you can learn and develop by being consistent, prepared, and showing up for your 1:1 meeting.
One-on-one meetings are an effective management tool that will improve people performance, help you develop professional relationships and keep the pulse on your team which in turn will help improve engagement.