10 Tips For Running Effective One On One Meetings With Employees

Matthew Turner
June 12, 2019

Best-selling author and former business executive Seth Godin said that leadership is the art of giving people a platform for spreading ideas that work, and as a manager, it’s important to remember this when leading others.

One of your most important tasks as a leader is to empower those you lead, and set an environment for them to succeed. This platform, a lot of the time, is during a meeting. Meetings are places where ideas get shared, questions get answered and problems get solved.

Although group meetings have their place, but we should never forget about the importance of one on one meetings. To begin with, not everyone shares ideas in group meetings. They’re often monopolized by a few people, leaving the rest of the group feeling unheard or unimportant. Group meetings can also be less conducive for building trust and rapport. As a leader, manager or business owner, this can have a big impact on your team.

A one on one meeting, on the other hand, allows you (and the employee you’re meeting with) to go deep. They play an important role, but only if you approach them correctly. An off-the-cuff, unstructured and off topic meeting can lead to further issues:

  • Wasted time
  • Miscommunication
  • Micro-Management
  • Mistakes and errors

As a leader, it’s important you have one on one meetings with employees, but equally important to approach them the right way. If you do, you may find they are one of the best investments you make in your business. If not, you may find yourself avoiding them at all costs.

With that in mind, here are 10 tips to help you run effective one on one meetings with your employees:

1. Make Sure The Meeting Has a Purpose

When people complain about meetings, it’s usually because they saw it as a waste of time.

Well, a meeting with a purpose is rarely a waste. So long as you tackle an issue and come up with a solution, a meeting is always worth the investment.

Whereas if you turn up to the one on one meeting and spend twenty-minutes catching up, it’s hard to justify the time you spend in it. So before scheduling the meeting, make sure it has a defined purpose.

  • What do you want to get out of it?
  • What does the other person need from it?
  • Why does this meeting HAVE to take place?

2. Have an Agenda (and stick to it)

Another reason a meeting may become a waste of time, is if you allow time to get away from you.

You’ve likely experienced this at some point in your own career. You show up for the meeting, get into a great conversation, but run out of time before a solution is had. This means you need another meeting, when you could have achieved all you needed first time around, had you stayed on-point.

This is where an agenda comes in. Make a note of what you want to cover, and when. Ask the other person in the lead up to the meeting if they have anything to add. And then, when your meeting starts, stick to the agenda no matter what.

3. Prepare For The Meeting

Benjamin Franklin said it best: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Before any meeting, make sure you’re prepared for it. This includes any notes you may need, as well as the environment itself. Don’t waste time once the meeting begins getting coffee. Have it ready for the start of the meeting.

Don’t put yourself in a position where you need to find those notes or figures, have them to hand. Preparation is key, no matter what the meeting may be.

4. Have The Other Person Prepare For The Meeting

Preparation doesn’t stop with you. Remember, a one on one meeting involves two people. As well as getting prepared yourself, make sure the other person comes prepped and ready. Own this. Reach out to them prior to the meeting, and ask them to do whatever is required for them to be fully prepared.

  • If you want them to come with a list of ideas, ask.
  • If they need to do some research beforehand, ask them.

Make sure they are as prepared as you, because if you’re both equally prepared for the meeting, you can get straight to work

5. At The Start of The Meeting, Set an Objective

At the top of your agenda, one of the best things you can cover is the meeting’s main objective.

  • At the end of this meeting, we will have created a new marketing budget...
  • By the end of this meeting, we will have assigned all roles for the new campaign...
  • At the end of the meeting, we will have highlighted three goals for the new quarter...

Every meeting should have a purpose and objective. So, at the start of the meeting, reiterate it. Get everyone on the same page, and make sure you work toward this objective throughout.

6. Create an Open Space and Make it Personal

Environment plays a big role in how the other person feels. This especially applies if you have the one on one meeting in your office. Remember, one of the main benefits of a one on one meeting is the relationship and trust it builds.

  • Create a welcoming, open space.
  • Make it clear that you want their input and honest feedback.
  • Get personal, and make the entire meeting about them.

Make sure no barrier stands between the two of you, so you both get what you need to from the meeting.

7. Listen to Understand

Andy Stanley once said, “Leaders who don't listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.”

Listening is one of the most powerful tools a leader and manager has. When you listen, you often learn everything you need to. But it’s not just about listening. You need to listen to understand.

A one on one meeting is a great platform to do this. Sit and listen to the other person say what they have to say. Take it on board. Step into their shoes. Ask questions, so you can dive even deeper. The more you listen, the more you’ll learn.

8. Manage The Time and Direction of The Meeting

Time is the most precious resource you have, and as a manger you never have enough of it. A one on one meeting is great, but only if it stays on schedule (the last thing you want is a 20-minute meeting turning into a 30-minute one).

If this happens throughout the day, you’re in trouble. The thing is, this is on you. It’s your job to manage the time and direction of the meeting, and ensure it stays on track. This is why having an agenda is so important. But it only is if you stick to it.

9. Recap The Discussion (did you understand them)

Throughout your one on one meetings, it’s good practice to recap what the other person says. This is part of listening to understand. You’ve listened to them, but have you understood them?

Ask. Recap what they say. Tell them what you’ve heard, and what you’ve taken from it. Ask them if you’ve understood correctly. If you have, great. If not, give them an opportunity to explain even further.

10. Follow Up After the Meeting

Finally, no matter what the one on one meeting is about, be sure to follow up with the person afterward.

No later than a few days after the meeting, reach out to the other person and ask if they have any questions. If you have set a task for the, ask them how it’s coming along.

A meeting is only good so long as it’s followed up on. If you don’t follow up afterward, you run the risk of having a lot of meetings that lead to no action. As a manager leading a team, this is a situation you do not want to get into. Oftentimes, you can stop this from happening with a quick follow-up.

The Value of a One on One Meeting

Meetings often divide people; especially one on one meetings. Where some love them, others avoid them at all costs.

Done properly, a one on one meeting empowers both you and your team. It builds trust and helps create relationships, which in turn leads to results. Keep these tips in mind when you next arrange a one on one meeting with someone.

Looking for a way to manage your workplace more efficiently? Check out what Eden’s Workplace Management Platform can do for your office.

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