Running Your Business

Holding Effective One-On-One Meetings


  • One-on-one meetings can foster engagement at your small business

  • Use this time efficiently by sharing agendas beforehand, and schedule them with individual employee needs in mind

  • Remote one-on-one meetings, while valuable, shouldn't totally replace in-person sit-downs

Posted by January 9, 2020

In-person one-on-one meetings, once the norm for both personal and professional interactions, are being replaced in some business circles with digital correspondence.

But they shouldn’t be.

According to Elizabeth Grace Saunders, author of “How to Invest Your Time Like Money” and founder of Real Life E Time Coaching & Training, remote one-on-ones don’t hold a candle to meeting in person—though even digital one-on-ones still have value. “One-on-ones are one of the most important productivity tools you have as a manager,” she said in an interview for Harvard Business Review.

So whether you’re heading to a coffee shop or dialing in, effectively leverage your next one-on-one meeting with these best practices.

Decide Who Needs to Meet

In addition to sitting down with direct reports, managers and business leaders may also need to have one-on-one meetings with others—both within and outside the organization. Start by noting the people you need to meet with regularly to achieve your business goals. This might include colleagues from other areas of the company, vendors, key customers or clients.

Determine the Right Frequency and Scheduling

Experiment with the timing and frequency of meetings until you find a suitable rhythm. Some people loathe meetings while others need them to thrive—some even use them as a way to break up their day and better manage their time.

There’s really no one-size-fits-all solution, but as you go, you’ll start to notice if you’re meeting too often or not enough based on the quality of communication. Is everyone is on the same page, or are there disconnects? Once you’ve found the right time and frequency, schedule a recurring meeting so communication can continue to be prioritized.

Set an Agenda

One-on-one meetings, just like any other meeting, can benefit from an agenda. You may want to start with standing items like updates on events and accomplishments, outstanding issues and concerns, but be sure to also leave room for timely issues to be discussed.

“[These meetings] are where you can ask strategic questions, such as are we focused on the right things?” explains Saunders. “And from a rapport point of view, they are how you show employees that you value them and care about them.”

Establishing a process for creating or updating the agenda—prior to the meeting—can help ensure that this time is being spent most efficiently.

Use Technology to Your Advantage

Your employees and managers may be dispersed across a wide range of physical locations. Technology like Skype, FaceTime and Google Hangouts allows you to host these important one-on-one meetings in real time, even when employees are thousands of miles away.

Despite these technological advances, though, nothing beats one-on-one, face-to-face connections. Consider how you could incorporate these physical meetings into the mix with faraway employees. Maybe schedule them after a mandatory all-hands meeting? Or have them fly out to you once a quarter?

Whatever the method, one thing is certain: One-on-one meetings ensure ongoing engagement with employees and other key players, and should always take priority in your schedule.

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