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5 Ways to Make the Most of One-on-One Meetings

One-on-one meetings are a critical component of communication at the office. It's one of the few moments of the week you get to check in with your employees on both a personal and professional level. As your schedule is likely packed, this half hour or hour is important to make sure your team stays on track -- but the time can fly right on by. So how can you make the most of this time?

One-on-one meetings are a critical component of communication at the office. It’s one of the few moments of the week you get to check in with your employees on both a personal and professional level. As your schedule is likely packed, this half hour or hour is important to make sure your team stays on track — but the time can fly right on by. So how can you make the most of this time?

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A user asked this very question on Quora, the popular question-and-answer site where anyone can ask questions and post answers; those with the most helpful and relevant answers will get “up-voted” to the top. When someone asked “What’s the best way to give [employees] both positive and negative feedback? during one-on-one’s?” Ian McAllister, a general manager at Amazon, responded. Here are some of his tips:

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  1. Don’t cancel on them. “The easiest way to communicate to an employee that they’re not important is to cancel their 1:1, no matter what the reason,” says McAllister. Of course, something may come up that forces you to have to reschedule — in that case, he advises trying to find another time during the same day to do the one-one-one. However, that conflict arises, it’s important to reschedule — but definitely don’t cancel entirely. 
  2. Let the employee drive. Ask the employee to bring a list of things they want to talk about. If they don’t bring an agenda to the table, McAllister says, “You can try to bring these out by simply asking, “What can I help you with?”
  3. Be transparent and honest. Transparency is critical when communicating with honest — it’s even part of some companies’ core cultural values. Be honest, especially when you’re hit with tough questions, even if that means saying you don’t have an answer right now.
  4. Discuss career development. While it’s important during one-on-ones to discuss what’s going on with projects and daily tasks, it’s also critical to have higher-level discussions about the employee’s career and satisfaction with the company.
  5. Check in with yourself. Another tip from Ian is to use the meeting to find out how you’re doing as a manager. It’s critical to remember this meeting is not just about you or just about your employee, but about your relationship. Getting feedback this way rather than once a year can help you — as a manager — make critical improvements so you won’t be surprised during your own performance review. 

For other tips, see the rest of Ian’s answers in the Quora thread here

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