1-1 meeting

How to Make One-to-One Meetings More Meaningful

5 min read
Lynsey May Sutherland
Lynsey Sutherland

The chance to sit down and properly catch up with an employee is worth its weight in gold, but only if you make the most of it. Stop those one-to-ones from being dry, stale and pointless, with a few top tips for making them more meaningful.

What are one-to-one meetings and why are they important?

One-to-one meetings offer the space to talk to an employee without interruption. This dedicated time means it’s the perfect place to bring up everything from performance (good or bad) to long-term career progression and goals. 

They are incredibly important in opening lines of communication and building trust between managers and employees. They also offer a venue for working through any issues, without external pressure, and make it easier to stop any small problems from festering and becoming bigger. 

A one-to-one is also very useful for making sure you’re aligned with your employees and can help you share and solidify your team values and expectations. 

one to one meeting in person

Ways to improve your one-to-one meetings

If you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of your one-to-ones, here are a few habits that are well worth forming. 

Put aside dedicated research time

Not only should you put aside interruption-free time for the meeting itself, but it’s also a good idea to book some research time prior to the meeting – for you and for your employee. You’ll both benefit from the opportunity to look back over notes and have a think about any particular topics you want to raise. 

The more tailored and individualised a one-to-one is, the more opportunity it has for success. Putting aside at least half an hour of preparation in the days running up to the meeting will let you both hit the ground running.  

Create effective questions 

By the same token, coming to the meeting with effective questions is absolutely essential. The time you put in familiarising yourself with your employee’s current position and their progress will prove invaluable here, allowing you to hold a one-to-one that offers insight as well as a chance to catch up.

Avoid broad, open-ended questions like ‘what would you like to talk about today’ and focus on more targeted options, such as ‘last week we talked about your plans for improving workflow, have you managed to implement any of those yet?’.

Set an agenda

The best meetings have some sort of structure, even if it’s relatively loose. Be sure to create an agenda and share it ahead of time. That will give your employee the opportunity to reflect on the topics up for discussion, allowing them to both prepare and reduce any anxiety they might have about the meeting.  

An agenda also makes it easier to avoid missing anything important and provides a useful framework. Research from Doodle found that having clear objectives and setting an agenda was the second most important factor for a successful meeting, according to 75% and 67% of professionals respectively.

Talk less, listen more

While it will be down to you to guide the meeting, one of the best pieces of advice for a fruitful one-to-one is to leave plenty of space for your employee to talk. 

Active listening is a powerful way to connect with employees and ensure that you’re offering them a safe and conducive environment for sharing their aspirations and concerns. Empathetic leaders can help teams thrive.  

Share and receive feedback

This is also an ideal opportunity to offer some constructive feedback – and to be open to receiving some too. The power of a one-to-one is the opportunity it gives you to step back and privately discuss any potential issues, and it works best when this can go both ways. 

If you can remain open and supportive while giving and receiving feedback, you will be well positioned to put problems to bed while they are still small and manageable. 

Notion 1 1 Template

Download your own 1-1 meeting Notion template

A template you can duplicate and edit, and allow your team members to fill in prior to your 1-1 meetings.

Focus on goals and development 

One-to-ones aren’t only about what’s going on right now, they should also be a place to plan for the future. The Wall Street Journal says that one of the most valuable things you can do for a meeting is to ensure you set milestones and regularly monitor them.  

Employee development is a crucial element in boosting satisfaction and engagement – as long as the method is fit for purpose. Whether you’re looking at online training, mentoring or courses, use your one-to-one space as an opportunity to both make plans and check that they are on track. 

Make them a regular thing 

While an individual one-to-one can be useful, these meetings are most beneficial if they happen regularly. Set up recurring one-to-ones at a regular interval so you can use them as a check in and reflection point, perfect for keeping an eye on the progression of goals as well as general happiness and stress levels. 

The Harvard Business Review says that one-to-ones are most effective when you can build momentum and tackle problems as they arise, meaning an hour every month or so isn’t going to cut it.  

Show your appreciation 

One-to-ones are also an excellent opportunity to recognise an employee’s efforts face-to-face. The benefits of showing your appreciation are huge and it’s a great idea to not only build rewards and recognition into your everyday communications, but also to take the time to reinforce this message during your one-to-one meeting. 

Celebrating even small wins can build confidence and overall wellbeing, making meetings more valuable for everyone. 

Find out more about Mo!

Mo is a new kind of reward and recognition platform that makes it easy for busy managers to meaningfully recognise, engage and connect with their teams.

We equip managers with weekly suggestions to energise and connect with their people, help teams build habits of recognition into their day-to-day rhythms and go beyond simple rewards as a way to motivate staff.

Join companies like SHL, OVO Energy and William Hill in delivering meaningful improvement on engagement results with Mo. Book a free demo today!

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