Note: Listen to this great podcast episode from the folks at Hacking Your Leadership. They discuss this article and add a few nugget of their own!
If you don’t already do 1 on 1 meetings, you should start today. If you do, the chances are that you are not utilising them to their full potential. These meetings are an important pillar to build trust with your team, and set up the right context for everyone. An important intrinsic motivation for anyone at work is career growth; and 1 on 1 meetings are great for that too. They are also an important signal for you to proactively find out if someone is low on morale.
But it might be time to slow down a bit, and introspect on how you are conducting these 1 on 1s! Here are 5 mistakes we have seen most managers make.
#1 - Not setting up recurring meeting slots in advance
1 on 1 meetings should NOT be set up only after something is breaking! The best leaders in my experience always have recurring pre-scheduled meeting slots in their calendar. This helps you be on top of future issues, and proactively play your part in your team’s growth.
The ideal schedule is once every two weeks, but once a month is fine too.
Note - if you have a lot of meetings on your calendar, try slotting all your one-on-one meetings on the same day. This will help you decrease your context switching!
#2 - Reschedules & cancellations
How many times have you felt the urge to reschedule today’s 1 on 1 because you are stuck in something important? Don’t. Doing so sends the signal to your team that these meetings are not important. In fact, these are more important when you are swamped with work! A good 1 on 1 meeting will help you zoom out and strategize better.
Get out of whatever Zoom call you are stuck in, and go finish your 1st priority as a leader!
#3 - Not setting up an agenda in advance
A productive 1 on 1 meeting means that both parties have prepared for it, the talking points are known and viewpoints are well prepared. If you don’t create and structure the meeting, it has high chances of getting derailed into status updates and banal questions like “How is the weather in your city today”.
Pick up rotating questions from your library to add to the agenda and send over.
Note - you should give complete freedom, and encouragement to the employee to always add their own agenda items. The one on one meeting is in fact, their meeting, not yours. Make sure you share this agenda with the employee in advance too, at least 3-4 days.
#4 - Not making notes
If you are running a remote team, documentation is super important. That is how you scale yourself; by embracing asynchronous processes! You can’t expect to remember everything in your head. And those notes you make will serve a very important role in performance evaluations too.
Use a simple Google Doc to list down action items and important points of every 1 on 1 meeting. Ideally have one document for each employee, with one page for every meeting. Try finishing all your previous meetings at least 10 mins in advance to make notes and read notes from the past meetings.
#5 - Forgetting past feedback
The easiest way to build trust with your team is to take actions on the feedback they give. Change things that someone doesn’t like and double down on what works. If you keep taking feedback during meetings, but never act on it, employees will stop responding to future questions.
This is definitely one of the most common mistakes that I have personally seen most remote managers make. Maybe it has to do with a lack of note making?
#6 - Discussing status updates
This is not a status update meeting! Period. You shouldn’t be discussing the status of projects, or tasks for the week. A good 1 on 1 meeting focuses on the concerns, aspirations and alignment of that employee within your team. Using it to discuss tasks is a disservice to everyone’s valuable time.
Hope these help! What are some other mistakes you have seen others make? Share with me and I will add them here.