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6 Tips to Make the Most of One-on-Ones

Topics: Career Advice

One-on-ones between managers and their team members can either be informative and useful, or boring and pointless. Aim for the former by coming to them prepared to get the most out of the interaction.

Here are three tips each for managers and employees that will ensure both parties are coming to the table with the resources they need for a fruitful and engaging discussion.


(Photo Credit: Ryan Honey/Flickr)

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Tips for Managers

  1. Mix Up the Location

Whenever possible, conduct one-on-ones somewhere other than a conference room or in your office. If the weather’s nice, consider walking while you talk. Is it in the afternoon, when you’re both in need of a caffeine boost? Make a beeline to the nearest coffee shop. A change in your environment will invigorate the discussion, and potentially allow for you both to speak your mind without the fear of being overheard.

  1. Relax With the Agenda

It seems great in theory to have an agenda for the meeting. But one-on-ones are a little different, because they should be about your team members having the opportunity to bring their concerns and questions to you. By all means, bring up specific issues that you’d like to address, but the discussion should be free-flowing enough for them to be candid with you, so that solutions can be presented and team members kept happy.

  1. Keep It Succinct

Try not to let the meeting last longer than 30 minutes, and split the time so that both of you are able to share your messages and be listened to. Take five minutes at the end to address how to follow up on each concern, with actionable next steps. If you find that one-on-ones regularly run too long, consider scheduling them more often. Some managers prefer a monthly check-in, while others think weekly is best. Decide what works for you and your reports most effectively.

Tips for Employees

  1. Prepare Your Points

Your manager will expect to be brought up to speed with ongoing projects, the progress you’re making, and whether you need any resources to get results. Even though a one-on-one might feel more casual than other types of meetings, come prepared with some bullet points that direct the conversation. You’ll both have the opportunity to speak your mind, so make sure it counts.

  1. Don’t Get Distracted

It can be tempting to cut the meeting short if there’s work to get back to. Resist the temptation, though, and take full advantage of this face-to-face time with your boss. Depending on what your respective roles are, your manager might not be as informed on what’s going on with you as you might think. Being open about any obstacles and issues will allow them to do their job more effectively, by helping you do yours.

  1. Respond With Action

Ask yourself what you are hoping to walk away with by the end of each one-on-one. Do you need clarity on a current project? Is there a deadline that needs to be adjusted for certain reasons? Make sure the key issues are met with actionable goals so that in your next meeting, you can present clear progress. If there are specific things you need your manager’s help on, make sure it’s agreed on in the meeting so that neither of you is in doubt as to what is happening next.

Tell Us What You Think

What are your tips for having effective one-on-one meetings? Do you make them a priority, or do you think you could be getting more out of them? Let us know in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Kirsty Wareing
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