Guide to Effective One on One Meetings with your Employees

By Cheryl Boyd; Universal Roof & Contracting

Before the One-on-One:

Come prepared with notes that you’d like to discuss including:

  • Recognition for their hard work (when employees feel valued their productivity increases)
  • Constructive feedback
  • General observations about their contribution to the team
  • Questions – professional or other – to show interest in them as a person all around

Ask Employees to Think Ahead

Just as you should prepare, it’s important to ask employees to come prepared with specific things to discuss as well.

  1. Retrospective thoughts on the past month
  2. What they would like to work on going forward
  3. What they need from you as a manager to help them achieve their goals
  4. A roadmap consisting of things they would like to accomplish on a professional level

During the One-on-One:

Start with the Positive – One-on-ones are not always the most settling for employees. As much as they are open to criticism so they can learn and grow, it’s still tough to learn about your short-comings. This is why it’s important to start off on a positive note.

All criticism should be constructive and productive. Think of it as coaching rather than criticizing. Offer actionable ways in which the employee can fix the problem or work on a solution together.

Focus on Behavior

People are not their actions, so when you offer criticism or coaching be sure to discuss their behavior, not their personality. It is easier to change what you do than who you are.

Actively Listen

Part of good communication is not speaking but listening. Employees want to feel heard. Don’t be afraid of silence in the meeting. It allows time for the employee to reflect.

After the One-on-One:

Send a Written Recap of the Meeting

Within one day of the meeting, send your employee a recap of what you discussed and the goals that you have set together. This creates a sort of contract holding both yourself and your employees accountable for the next steps.

Bonus Information – The 8 Best Questions to Ask During a One-on-One Meeting

  1. How’s Life? – The more you know about a coworker’s dreams, hobbies, pets, children’s names, etc., the greater the sense of trust is. Many managers kick off these meetings with a “get-to-know-you” question like, “How’s life?” or “How’s [insert spouse’s name]?” or “What are you up to this weekend?”
    Get-to-know-you questions:
    1. What was your first job?
    2. What are you reading right now?
    3. Seen any good movies lately that you’d recommend?
    4. What was the first thing you bought with your own money?
    5. What’s your favorite place you’ve ever visited?
  2. What are you worried about right now? – This question can help unearth the deep-seated concerns, confusion, or uncertainty an employee might be facing.
  3. What rumors are you hearing that you think I should know about?
  4. If you could be proud of one accomplishment between now and next year, what would it be?
  5. What are your big time wasters?
  6. Would you like more or less direction from me? – As a manager, it can be easy to unintentionally give an employee too much guidance. At the same time, employees find it equally frustrating when they’re hung out to dry with no support. As a leader, this question shows you’re self-aware.
  7. Would you like more or less feedback on your work? If so, what additional feedback would you like?
  8. Are there any decisions you’re hung up on? – Asking this question during the one-on-one is a wonderful way to alleviate the potential pain they may be feeling around a tough decision.

Questions NOT to ask:

  • “How can I help you?” – It puts pressure on the employee to give a diplomatic response, instead of an honest one. And it’s vague.

So, what should you ask instead?

If you genuinely do want to know how you can help and support an employee, try this:

Ask about something specific that you can give help on, first.

  • “Have I been putting too much on your plate and do you need some breathing room?”
  • “Could I be doing a better job outlining the vision and direction for where we’re headed?”
  • “Have I not been as understanding of reasonable timelines like I should have?”

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Get Cheryl’s full article, HERE