Maintaining relationships has always been important in the workplace but more so now, when social distancing and remote working have become the new norm. With even lesser opportunities to meet face to face, it is important to facilitate team communications to ensure continued productivity.
While management usually do conducting periodic group meetings to discussing projects, it is the one on one meetings that are put on the back burner in these times. This results in a lack of connection between the manager and the employee, which can often lead to a whole lot of miscommunication.
One on one meetings are important because they help a manager gauge how an employee is fitting in and assimilating into the organization. It also establishes a manager-subordinate understanding which helps in better synchronization across projects, leading to increased productivity.
An article on Harvard Business Review states that nearly 89% of managers believed that one on one meetings drastically improve the entire team’s performance. They also helped employees do better at work by allowing them to convey their issues directly to their managers.
In this comprehensive guide, we discuss everything about one on one meetings. Ranging from the questions that can be asked and the situations that should be covered. If you’re confused about the one on one meeting questions or simply looking for a one on one meeting agenda, you’ve come to the right place.
What are one on one meetings?
One on one meetings refer to interactions that happen between supervisors and their subordinates on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis, to discuss professional growth, productivity, and its overall impact on the organization. It is a periodic effort to establish a better relationship between the manager and employees through regular communication. One on one meetings should have specific agendas to catch up on an employee’s progress and how their skills can be harnessed better. It is also a good way to address any grievances and roadblocks they may be facing.
These meetings are held between two people so that the conversation can flow more openly.
1:1 meetings help build alignment across the team. It is a perfect way to increase employee engagement as well as make them feel more valued, noticed, and supported. This, in turn, contributes to more transparent communication lines and enhanced employee productivity.
Simply put, one on one meetings are your growth hack to setting a positive team culture.
Why are one on one meetings important?
Whether a startup or an established venture, every organization needs to build a setup which works well across all the levels. Employees need to be engaged to feel valued, and the best way to do that is by encouraging clear lines of communication. One on one meetings with the manager makes sure that happens.
Here are a few core reasons why conducting one on ones with employees are as important as setting project goals:
1. Creating high-performance teams
A one on one meetings is a great tool to transform into a leader, from just being a manager. You turn into a coach who can guide the employees towards a better professional path and align their goals with that of the organization. As per a Gallup report, companies are now changing tactics they are focusing more on performance development rather than performance management. A 1:1 meeting with the manager helps transform the perspective of the manager and the subordinate.
2. Trust and rapport build-up
Your team needs to know that they can trust you as a person before they follow you. To inspire them as a leader, you get to know them. When you sit down with employees during a 1 on 1 meeting, you help them understand their own strengths and weaknesses in the larger purview of the organization, you are helping them grow. This helps build trust and rapport that goes well beyond a single organization.
3. Professional development
One of the foremost reasons why everyone wishes to continue to work is growth. Professional growth or career development are perks enough for an employee to move forward. 1 on 1 meetings with the manager ensure that future leaders are created. Moving on from one who is at the receiving end of these meetings to the one who conducts them is a growth which is enabled by these meetings.
4. Progress development
“Of all the things that can boost emotions, motivation, and perceptions during a workday, the single most important is making progress in meaningful work.” Teresa Amabile, Stanford PhD and a Harvard Business School professor and Steven J Kramer, UVA PhD created the Progress Principle to enunciate on the fact that a person is most motivated by progress. One on one meetings with the manager allow employees to rise from the daily grind of their job and see how their contributions impact the future of the organization.
5. Refine employee thinking
Another thing which 1 on 1 meetings can do is refine employee thinking. As managers, conducting these meetings and asking the right one on one questions should be aimed to refine employee thinking. Make your employees think like owners. Let them take ownership of their work and their tasks. The more ownership and accountability they feel with regards to their work, the more aligned they will be towards the organizational vision.
6. Checking on general employee happiness
One on one meetings can be conducted if the manager observes an employee is too subdued to work. If the productivity of an employee gets hampered due to sullen attitude, a one on one meeting is required to find a solution and to instil hope that the grievance would be dealt with.
Another great tactic to gauge how happy your employees are, consider conducting employee engagement surveys.
7. Crisis management
A happy team is a productive team. While regular team meetings contribute towards it, 1 on 1 meetings handle a crisis in a better manner. Each member has a different response and technique to handle a crisis. One on one meeting questions, if asked in the right manner and at the right place ensure that all the queries are answered and all employees are carefully brought on the same page to tackle any crisis. The leader can then manage the crisis well.
1 on 1 meetings are important. And for a good one on one meeting, asking the right questions is the key. Creating a one on one meeting agenda beforehand helps here.
One on one questions you should ask
If you are going to have a 1 on 1 meeting, here are a few sample questions segregated categorically, that should help you out:
Ice-breaker one on one meeting questions
- How are you doing?
- How is your day going so far?
- How do you spend your weekends?
- What made you take up this as a career?
- What do you think about coming to work when you wake up every morning?
- What are your views on the organization’s goals and its vision?
Career goals oriented one on one meeting questions
- If I ask you one goal that you would like to achieve at this organization, what would that be?
- Do you think you can cope with your current set of job requirements?
- Do you think working here is contributing to your professional enhancement?
- Do you need any further help or course to refine your skills?
- If you were to leave your job now, do you think your learnings from this place would help you in your next workplace?
- Feel free to suggest if there is anything that you feel can be done by the organization to boost your growth?
Feedback-related 1 on 1 meeting questions
- How receptive are you to feedback?
- Do you think you are receiving enough feedback?
- Anytime you feel you received inadequate feedback, whether positive or negative? Why do you think so?
- How can I be a better manager?
- Are you comfortable giving feedback to your seniors?
- What is that one thing about my management style that you like and one thing that you dislike?
- What would you want me to do to improve?
Productivity-related one on one meeting questions
- How do you plan your day?
- Do you think x number of hours in a day are enough for you to get your work done?
- Do you think your time is underutilized or do you think you are overburdened?
- Do you need help with managing your time?
Team-related one on one meeting questions
- Who is that one person in the team that you love working with?
- Who is that person you do not like to work with and why?
- Is there any solution to this breakage in the team bond?
- What is that one thing you love about your team?
- Who is that one person on the team who is just the best and inspires everyone?
- Who is the person who can be terrific with some push?
- What do you think can improve team performance, something that is not existing at the moment?
While these questions seem like a lot to cover in a meeting, you don’t need to go through all of these. Pick a few that are pertinent to your context and stick to those. In the next meeting, you can switch up the questions. Use these as a reference to draw upon when needed.
What to keep in mind while asking one on one meeting questions?
It’s important to have your discussion points prepared well in advance to conduct a good one on one meeting. Also, make sure that it is a good mix of casual and professional questions, asked in a manner which is more forthcoming and not intimidating. It should be more about professional development rather than be professional management.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- The questions should be collectively aimed towards the organization’s growth.
- Always remember to not transcend to the therapy side. You are the manager and not a therapist. Draw that line.
- Do not come unprepared. You should have a comprehensive one on one meeting agenda ready for every employee.
- Do not ask for any project or status updates. It is intimidating. One on one meetings are about growth, both that of the employee and the organization, and you will only get honest answers if the employee is at ease.
- Ensure you have ample time for the meeting. Do not rush and do not cancel it.
- Be consistent with your questions.
- Deal differently with every employee because every individual is different, no matter how cliched it may sound.
- Last but not least, do keep a log of every one on one meeting so that you can start off from where you left last time.
How can you get ready to hold one on one meetings?
If you have been holding regular one on one meetings, it is not difficult. However, if you have to start, you do need help. Here are a few questions that can help you if you are just starting with these individual professional interactions.
The first 1 on 1 meetings
Here is when you lay the foundation. Be casual and slowly slide into the professional space. Do that with the following questions:
- What is it that you like to do outside of work?
- What is your most preferred mode of communication; phone, messages, or emails?
- What are your goals; a year from now and 5 years from now?
- What time of the day do you think you are the most productive?
- What are the projects that you think excite you the most?
Weekly 1 on 1 meetings
Agendas for weekly one on one meetings have to be precise. The following questions can help you:
- What do you think has been the best part of your last week?
- What do you think has been the worst and why?
- Is there any way you are tracking your weekly goals?
- If you had to rate your weekly satisfaction and work happiness what would it be?
Monthly one on one meetings
When teams expand, the frequency goes down. You can also reduce the frequency when you think that weekly meetings have pushed productivity higher enough and are just being repetitive. Following are some of the questions that you can ask:
- Do you think you have received enough managerial support during the past month?
- What professional highs and lows have you seen in the period?
- Do you have any way of measuring your growth during the month?
- Are you tracking your numbers?
- Is there any way I as a manager can help elevate your growth?
Remember to pre-decide who is setting the agenda for the meeting. One on one meetings tend to get carried away from the core issues that need to be discussed. So state the ownership of giving the meeting a direction, early on. It’s also not always necessary for the manager to create this agenda. It depends on what needs to be discussed.
Now that you’re all set with what you need to talk about during the 1-1 meeting, and how to prepare for it, time for the one task that will help you set the right tone. Inviting your employee for the one on one meeting.
Employee One on One Meeting Template
Having good questions for your 1 on 1 meeting is important. But so is inviting your employee for the meeting. Make note 1 on 1 meeting invite does not seem intimidating. Following is a sample email which will help you send an email to your employees for a one to one meeting.
Example 1: Employee one on one meeting email template
Hey (insert name),
It’s time for another of our one on ones! Let’s catch up on coffee and discuss concepts, projects, and all that’s there.
Will be looking forward to meeting you in (insert place) at (insert time).
Do let me know if you have something urgent and we can reschedule.
Example 2: 1-1 meeting email template
Hey (insert name),
This is just to let you know that I’m scheduling a one on one meeting with you. Nothing much, just a meeting to come up to date with your performance. We could also discuss how we can further improve it by enabling you to do more or what’s been holding you back.
Looking forward to meeting you. Do let me know what time would suit you this week.
A good invitation should be inviting, to say the least. It should not scare the employee but instead, should encourage the employee to ponder about the one on one meeting questions to ask their manager.
A one on one meeting should be one that doesn’t make the employee anxious.
What is the best place to have one on one meetings?
Choosing the right venue for your one on one meetings is also important. The right place helps a person be in the right frame of mind, especially for a meeting as important as this. Additionally, it’s a myth that good one on one meetings can only take place within the four walls of the office. On the contrary, given it happens between two people, the choice of venue is wider.
Here are a few tips on where can you have your one on one meetings and busting a few myths in the process:
- Walk and talk
Yes, you can walk in the corridors with your respective cups of coffee and spill the beans on how performances can be improved.
- Out of office
There is no rule that a one on one should be held in the office. Take it out to the cafeteria or even a nearby cafe, if that is a more suitable place for the conversation.
If your office premises have a terrace to flaunt the view, take advantage of the situation. Discussion amidst the clear blue sky can be open.
- Amidst nature
Nature is known to have a calming and soothing effect on the senses. If you have a large garden or green park in your office premises, make use of that.
In the times we currently live in, it seems unrealistic to meet in person for every one on one meeting. Doing one over Zoom or Google Meet, should do well too.
Have your one on one meeting wherever you wish to, but do not lose sight of the goal in mind. You have to come out better and brighter.
What happens after the 1-1 meetings?
To put it in one word; follow-up.
Conducting one on one meetings and asking the right one on one questions is good, but what happens afterwards? It is possible that the discussion may seep through once the meeting is over. In that case the meeting would turn out to be an unproductive one. So, how does one prevent that? By following up. Here are a few steps and actions that need to be in place post your 1-1 meetings.
1. Note it all
Notes are an integral part of every meeting. Jotting down important points not only creates a rough sketch and record of the meeting, but also helps you retain more crucial elements of the discussion. You can even ask the employee to send minutes of the meeting post your one on one session. This will ensure that there is complete attentiveness during the meeting.
2. Revisit it all
No one on one meeting should start on an abrupt note. It should always be a continuation of the last meeting. Making notes and having recorded minutes of the meeting help that. Revisit the notes before starting the meeting and create fresh questions on the basis of that. Encourage your employees to do the same.
3. Ask it all
It is important to know the employee’s outlook as well. After every meeting ask them to not only create the minutes, but also their own views on the entire discussion. There are times when some good points emerge in the aftermath of the meeting. Take advantage of that.
4. Follow-up on it all
None can emphasise more on the importance of following up. Do not micromanage but do check in from time to time to see if your one on one meeting has brought about any change. Meetings and decisions are only as effective as their implementations.
Remember to set clear action items after your one on one meetings to ensure both of you are on the same page.
What are the other types of 1-1 meetings?
While it is true that one on one meetings are efficient forms of leadership and establish a good relationship between an employer and an employee, there are other types to consider as well. Here are a few other organizational one on one meetings:
1. One on one meeting with Skip Level Manager
These are a little less frequent as they skip a few management levels and happen on quarterly or monthly basis. These meetings are usually conducted to avoid groupism within the organization, and also is a way for the employees to share feedback on their managers, teams, and overall organization with an even higher-up manager.
2. Remote one on one meeting
These meetings are especially challenging when the employers and employees exist in different time zones. Nevertheless, mutual agendas and timelines are decided well in advance for a productive meeting.
3. Quarterly performance review one on one meeting
These meetings are usually conducted to assess an employee’s strengths and weakness and performance with respect to organizational goals and vision. This can be in the form of peer review or even as a self-assessment.
4. Peer to peer one on one meeting
These one on one meetings are conducted either within the same department or cross-functionally to help peers or colleagues understand their respective scope of work better. The objective is to connect individuals who do not report to each other. This also serves as a strong communication channel.
5. Salary review one on one meeting
This, as the name suggests is a meeting wherein the performance is assessed against monetary compensation. Mostly, these meetings happen through various levels, from the head of human resources to own manager, to even another level up. It includes a recap of organizational goals and how well the employee’s role matches it.
How to know whether your one on one meeting is working?
A one on one meeting is only useful when it is effective. Otherwise, it is just a waste of time. Here are 5 signs that your one on one meeting is working and 5 more that it is not. These will help you recognize the warning signals and deal with them more efficiently.
Signs your one on one meetings are effective
- You solved a problem that was proving to be a hurdle for the employee
- You managed to sail through a particularly difficult conversation
- You received a genuine feedback as a manager
- Your employees feel comfortable enough to share an honest feedback
- You learn something new about employees and their skills
Signs your one on one meetings are not effective
- Despite the feedback and solutions, work is not being done
- Your team members are often absent from work, citing one reason or the other
- Team’s growth is stagnating, impacting organizational growth as a whole
- You are the only one who talks in the meeting, with no response from the other side
- Repetitive issues occur in every meeting
The key is to recognize the aforementioned signs and know whether your efforts are working or not. If not, it’s time to bring in new strategies.
Do you need one on one meetings?
Yes. Nearly every organization’s productivity issues stem from miscommunication and hampered management. One on one meetings at frequent intervals helps maintain consistent communication, further contributing towards the organization’s growth.
But remember to not overdo these meetings too. Long and winding one on one meetings can eat into productive work hours.
Find the sweet spot for your team by initially starting out with recurring one on one meetings, and then moving onto scheduling them only when needed.
What are some of the one on one questions that you have asked? What is the frequency at your organization? Do tag us at @HarmonizeHQ and let us know.