This One Thing Will Change Everything About How You Manage Your Team!

Manage with One-on-one meetings

What if I told you that there is a simple way to:

  • Reduce Interruptions
  • Provide Timely Feedback to Your Team
  • Clarify Expectations on Assigned Tasks
  • Discuss the Future
  • Determine Motivation Level
  • Brainstorm Solutions for Challenges
  • Strengthen Rapport with Directs
  • And Build Loyalty

I know what you’re thinking:


When I first became a manager, I wanted all of these things and more from my directs. Yet, I wasn’t properly trained in the art and science of management, so I did what most managers do when just starting out-I winged It. I made it up as I went. I tried (and failed) many, many times.

I tried being “friends” with my directs. I tried being tough. I tried being hard. I tried micromanaging. The problem with all of these things is that I tried them by myself-in a silo where I changed but my directs didn’t. I thought that if I did the right thing, then they would do the right thing: simple cause and effect.  But, that’s not how people work.

People Work Based on Relationships

That’s the key to this whole business–relationships.  While I was off reinventing myself and my management style every couple of months, my team was trying to keep up and were wondering, “How’s Tim going to lead us today?”. That’s a  horrible position to be in as an employee-not knowing what your boss wants or what they care about today, wondering if you’re on your way to a raise or to a pink slip.  No thanks!

A Better Way

About 7 years ago, I found a better way to manage people: a proven way to relationship with my staff that gets results and addresses every single pain point that I mentioned at the beginning of this article. That is having a weekly one-on-one meeting with each team member for which I am responsible.  Oh great!  You’re saying “more meetings”. Well, yes and no.  These one-on-one meetings (if done correctly) will reduce the need for other meetings and make every other bit of your week more productive.

How Do More Meetings Lead To Less Meetings?

One word: efficiency. With proper preparation, you can get more done in this 30 minutes each week than you currently get done in 3 or 4 hours (or more) of broken-up, non-scheduled interruptions.

What Makes a Good One-on-One Meeting?

  1. Regularly Scheduled  There should be 30 minutes on your calendar every week for every one of the people that you manage.  Don’t leave anyone out.  It will undercut everything that you’re trying to accomplish. Weekly is a good time frame.  Any longer and you lose the benefit of the elimination of interruptions.  We schedule our lives in week-long increments. Having them regularly and consistently will give you and your directs comfort in knowing that the next meeting is only a few days away. With some training, your team will begin to wait until your weekly meeting to discuss most of the stuff that they used to interrupt you with everyday. Yay! Win!
  2. Consistent Format  Every one-on-one meeting should be similar in format to every other one-on-one meeting.  The first 10-15 minutes are for your direct to ask questions and talk about whatever they want. It’s THEIR time to spend with you (the boss). Many of your team members will rattle off a bunch of project updates and questions on what direction to take. Others will come in and tell you about their kids or hobbies. That’s okay.  You can get the work stuff handled during YOUR 15 minutes. Which brings us to your time. You get 10-15 minutes to ask questions and discuss YOUR agenda. If there’s time left after you’ve talked: discuss your direct’s development and future goals. This won’t happen every week. That’s okay.
  3. Don’t Miss  Your weekly one-on-one can very quickly become the most important 30 minutes of your directs’ week.  Don’t take that away from them. Skipping tells your people that their needs are not important, and therefore, they are not important. Don’t send that message. We all get busy and stuff comes up.  I understand.  When that happens, just reschedule. Reschedule for later the same week. Don’t push it off until the following week.
  4. Prepare  As I mentioned earlier, please, please, please plan for this. Take at least a few minutes before the meeting to jot down what you want to discuss.  This will take your one-on-ones from good to great.  This will make the time investment return tenfold.  
  5. Be Present  Close your door (if you have one). If not, go to a conference room or another place that you won’t be bothered. Look at the other person. Pay attention. Take notes. You don’t have to think about what you’re going to say since you’ve written it down ahead of time.  This 30 minute session is all about this one employee and how you can make them more effective and productive.  Also- It should go without saying, but turn off your phone and all email notifications.
  6. Follow Up One of the reasons for taking notes is to allow you to follow up with the things that you commit to during the meeting. This can be anything from checking on H.R. policies to making a phone call for your direct. Whatever it is, do it! Don’t forget and don’t ignore the responsibility.  This meeting is to gain TRUST with your team.  Take that seriously and don’t blow it off.

So, there you have it-Why you should include one-on-ones in your management tool bag.  If you’ve had a bad experience with one-on-one’s before, don’t give up.  Follow the outline above and I guarantee that you’ll get better results and have better relationships with your team.

What is your experience with one-on-ones?  Do they work?