Thought Leadership 3 minute read

1:1 Best Practices From 40 Executives

by Sheel Gupta

Based on the qualitative responses, we gathered these best practices:

Best Practice #1 
Listen!

This seems obvious right? But an overwhelming majority of the leaders pointed out that this is what they feel they do ‘right’ in their 1:1s. They reinforced that the 1:1 is supposed to be meant for the direct report more than for the manager. In order to do this, you need to be intentional in your approach. Here are some tips:

  1. Ask questions that are open-ended.
    Examples: What is the most stressful part of your job? How would you like to see your career progress? If you had a magic wand and could change one part of your job, what would it be?
  2. Send these open-ended questions ahead of time so they can answer them thoughtfully.
  3. Have your reports send discussion items to you ahead of time so they can be sure to cover everything they would like to talk about.

Best Practice #2
Opt for quality over quantity

More than half of the respondents have only 30 minute 1:1 meetings. Additionally, more than half meet less than once a week. Here’s why:

  1. Having meetings too often starts to feel routine and turns them into status updates. They become less mindful and thoughtful. You don’t just want to be ‘going through the motions.’
  2. 1:1s are supposed to be helpful and meaningful to both parties — not an annoying must-do. If you go overboard with the length and occurrence, it becomes a nuisance as opposed to an opportunity.
  3. Status updates and daily blockers can be done in google sheets, stand-ups, or in management apps. It’s not the best use of your time to review priorities and blockers during the 1:1s.

Recommendation: 30 min every other week with open-ended questions sent in advance

Best Practice #3
1:1s are a huge opportunity — treat them as such by leveraging them correctly

1:1s are the time for you to connect with your employees and assure that they are happy and you can retain them. You cannot do this during stand-ups or status update meetings.

You can:

  • Get to know them personally and also share personal parts of yourself. This builds trust.
  • Brainstorm solutions for recurring blockers in order to prevent them.
  • Get them to understand how their work is making an impact and how it relates to the bigger picture.
  • Mentor them and provide suggestions on how they can improve.
  • Receive feedback on how to do your job better… if you’re courageous enough.
  • Understand what drives them (career progression, learning new skills, $$, public praise) and then be sure to give that to them.

Best Practice #4
Take Notes

When asked the question what these leaders would do differently, many of them said that they wish they took notes more often. This doesn’t necessarily mean taking full minutes in a meeting, but instead, simply jotting down things of importance. Why?

You can:

  • Skim through them before the next 1:1.
  • Use them during performance reviews.
  • Mark things that require follow up on your part.
  • Remember what you talked about. If you have a ton of reports, it can quickly become jumbled in your memory.

Couple things to keep in mind when doing this. Try to take notes with pen and paper. There is nothing more impersonal than talking to someone who is staring at a screen. Type them up immediately after. If you’re a crazy busy manager with back to back meetings, then just end the 1:1s a few minutes early. These few minutes will have a large impact.

Favorite Advice Quotes:

More Tips From Respondents:

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