How To Make Your One on Ones Actually Meaningful And Productive

How To Make Your One on Ones Actually Meaningful And Productive

One of the biggest disservices that we do as leaders is not taking the time necessary to develop our teams.  One-on-One’s can be a broken system, with direct reports often believing that the whole experience just feels like a “check this off my to-do list” type of process.  Do we still need One on Ones?


The comment I’ve heard the most from managers when asked how their development conversations look like is, “I don’t have time to do them”.  Ironically, these same managers often find themselves running around frantically to catch up on delayed tasks or filling positions resulting from a high turnover rate.


One of the most important measures of your effectiveness as a leader is your ability to get results from your team.  You cannot do that consistently if you don’t invest in the development of your team.


One way to accomplish this is to regularly check in with each of your employees.


If you and your employees are meeting regularly but are not seeing the benefits, then maybe it is time to relook at your process.  How can you make your one on ones more productive and collaborative?


What do you need to change as the manager?


“One of the biggest mistakes managers make during their regular discussions with their employees is making the meeting about tasks and not development.”


Your one on ones should center around development discussions.  Your main objectives should be about coaching, setting direction and offering support to overcome challenges.


The essence of coaching lies in helping others and unlocking their potential.


Here are 8 tips On Making Your One-on-Ones Actually Meaningful and Productive


  1. Block regular time in your schedules

What you schedule, you tend to do more of.  One of the simplest ways to eliminate the objection of not having the time to conduct conversations, is to schedule it.  By making it a recurring event in your calendar, you create a habit of having regular meetings, making it harder to cancel.  It also helps create regular check points of progress.

The frequency of the meeting is up to you as long as it is recurring.


  1. Being Fully Present

Silence your phone and turn off notifications.  If you are responding to incoming messages and phone calls during your discussions, you are sending a message that your time with your employee is not important.  This is their time with you.  Make it count by being fully present.


  1. Limit Status Updates

If you need to cover task updates set a limit of 5-10 minutes.  Have the employee come prepared by summiting a bulleted summary before the meeting.


  1. Don’t Run the Meeting

These conversations are not about you.   Let your employee set the agenda about what they need help on or progress they want to share.


  1. Be a Coach

If your employee presents problems encountered since your last meeting, it can be hard not to just provide solutions.  After all, the answer may be obvious to you.  Remind yourself that the goal of these meetings is for their development.  Encourage employees to find their own solutions and review pros and cons of each solution to help them identify best next steps.


  1. Ask, don’t Tell

Great leaders ask great questions.  Use the right questions to help give direction and encourage reflection.  Questions should be open-ended to help get to the root of the problem and help employees find their own solutions.


I used to have a bad habit of firing off two or three questions before the employee finished answering the first.


“After asking your first question, instead of adding another question, stay quiet and wait for the answer.”


I have created a PDF of “17 Great Questions to Spark Conversation and Development During One on Ones”.  Any of the 15 questions can be used to increase engagement and effectiveness of your discussion.  Download it here.


  1. Goal Check-in

During the beginning of the year, you hopefully helped your employee set some development goals they wanted to accomplish.  These regular discussions are a great opportunity to discuss progress.  Don’t wait for performance reviews to do it.


  1. Have Employee Summarize Main Highlights

Ensure alignment by having employees review agreements during discussions and what their next steps will be.


The time you invest in your employees will result in exponential return in the future.  It can result in a more engaged workforce and great consistency of results.


What do believe to be the biggest ROI of your discussions?