Make Your One-on-One Meetings More Productive

The most important meeting you have on your schedule isn’t your annual performance review or even the quarterly board meeting: it’s the one-on-one you have with your reports, hopefully once every week or two. Here’s what you need to know about making these one-on-one meetings a good use of everyone’s time.


(Photo Credit: Guillermo Viciano/Flickr)

What Employees Want in Their Careers

Now more than ever, employees value fulfillment, flexibility, and freedom in their careers. Younger generations have even declared that they’d forgo a higher paycheck to have “the 3Fs” mentioned above. A paycheck still matters – because we all need to eat, right? – but the long-term goal for professionals is more focused in the direction of finding a place of employment that they can call home … long-term. 

Today’s professional wants to find an employer with a company culture centered around making its employees feel valued and with an atmosphere that facilitates growth and encourages collaboration and innovation – because that’s what makes employees productive and happy. As a manager, your part in creating this ideal workplace is to foster communication and make sure your reports feel valued and respected.

The one-on-one is an essential part of this process. The purpose of these meetings is to promote more dialogue between the two parties that will, in return, produce higher productivity, better skills management, and a more transparent atmosphere for everyone.

One-on-One Meetings: The Good and The Bad

When performed correctly, one-on-ones can be “the single most powerful investment” managers can make in their teams, according to an article on Lighthouse‘s blog. There are myriad benefits for managers who have frequent one-on-one meetings with their team members, however, as the author indicates, “many managers fail to experience those gains” because of their approach.

One of the main reasons managers aren’t benefiting from one-on-ones is because they simply don’t understand the true value of such meetings. One misconception is that frequent meetings with juniors are unnecessary and will only act as a bottleneck for productivity. On the other hand, some managers have a problem arising from the opposite position: they feel one-on-ones are important, but get hung up on how long they should take and how frequently to have the meetings, forgetting that what transpires during the conversation is more important than how long it takes.

One-on-One Meetings: The Right Approach

It’s not a “one-size-fits-all” deal when it comes to one-on-one meetings, so they shouldn’t be treated as such. If a week or two goes by without any red flags or concerns, then maybe a 15-minute status update meeting will suffice. However, if there is a week where problem after problem arises, then one-on-ones may need to take place more frequently to nip problems in the bud before they start impacting deadlines and morale.

Likewise, the length of one-on-one meetings should subjective and based on the situation at hand. A common rule applied to one-on-one meetings is the 10/10/10 Rule, which translates to 10 minutes for them, 10 minutes for you, and 10 minutes to discuss what’s to come (a.k.a. the future). However, not everyone is so keen on this rule for one-on-ones.

According to another article from Lighthouse, the 10/10/10 rule is limiting because 10 minutes isn’t always enough to discuss/resolve real issues, and the limited timeframe encourages status updates rather than meaningful dialogue.

What’s the golden length of time for an effective one-on-one? The answer is: as long or short as it needs to be. There are some meetings that last two hours that are extremely productive and worthwhile that could probably continue on longer, if allowed. However, there are also 30-minute meetings that are pointless and seem to drag on for what seems like hours on end. It varies from one meeting to the next.

In the end, one-on-ones are great ways for managers to keep abreast of what’s going on with their team members and the internal dynamics. One-on-one meetings also allow for employees to be heard and feel as though they have a true open-door policy when it comes to real issues that affect the company – and this is what creates engaged, productive, and happy employees.

Tell Us What You Think

What are your thoughts on one-on-one meetings? Are they helpful or detrimental to productivity? Share your thoughts with our community on Twitter or in the comments section below.