How To Actually Make 1:1 Meetings Valuable and Win More Time Back In Your Day

On this week’s episode of Seeking Wisdom, DC and I discuss the importance of 1:1 meetings – what they are, why you and your team need them and the best 1:1 formats.

But before we get into the weeds of how to hold an effective 1:1 meeting, I want to emphasize why they’re so important. Sure, 1:1 meetings take up a lot of valuable time, but it’s this level of personal investment that makes them worth it – ten fold.

1:1 meetings provide insight into not only what your team is working on, but also what’s not working and where you as a manager need to step in to help – aka remove roadblocks. And most importantly, these meetings show your team that you’re bought into their success and professional development.

It’s in these more intimate settings that you’ll begin to recognize patterns. Does the same team member’s name come up over and over again. Are each of my direct reports coming to me with the same issues or questions? If so, I know the problems I need to address and where I need to better communicate.

Often as our teams scale, we come to think that 1:1s don’t scale either. But to stand apart from your competitors, you need to embrace doing the things that just won’t scale. We’re so tied to this belief, we wrote a book on it – get a copy when it’s released here.

So while it’s likely not sustainable to hold 1:1 meetings with every single person on your team, don’t nix them all together. Instead, as the team grows, pare them back. Rather than meeting individually with everyone on your team, meet only with your direct reports every week and then meet with others on the team every other week or once a month – we call these “skip 1 meetings”. Keep in mind that you should have no more than 6 to 8 direct reports, but ideally 5 to 6.

Remember, 1:1s aren’t just about helping out your reports. You as a manager can learn a lot from them. Are you getting the same feedback over and over from each team member? Maybe you’re not communicating something well enough. Does the same issue or person come up in all of your 1:1s? Look into it!

So now that you hopefully agree that 1:1s are crucial, how often should you hold them? Who should you hold them with? And what’s the best format?

Format Tips for Successful 1:1s:

  • Strive for weekly 1:1s with direct reports, every other week if you have.
  • Embrace “skip 1 meetings” where you meet every two weeks or once a month with team members a level or two removed – DC also holds monthly office hours where anyone in the company can sign up to meet with him one on one.
  • Keep them casual – go for a walk to get coffee or a juice, get in a room to whiteboard, don’t write everything down, listen instead – this is not an interrogation!
  • Encourage your direct reports to talk by embracing the silence, give them the room they need to speak.

Tips for Direct Reports:

Remember, 1:1s aren’t just for the benefit of managers or direct reports. They help everyone out. So what does a direct report need to do to maximize this valuable face time?

  • Come to the meeting prepared with an agenda – I like to use Evernote Notebooks to record what I plan to talk about in each session. In fact, I keep a separate notebook for every person I meet with regularly one on one. This way I can save the longer conversations, more complicated ideas and bigger issues for this time.
  • Go to the meeting with the top 3 things you want to discuss. If it’s nothing specific, but you want a check in, go for a walk. If you don’t have anything particular, it’s okay to skip these meetings occasionally. But don’t get into that habit!

Let us know your tips for 1:1 meetings. Why do you find them useful? What have they helped you uncover?

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Referenced in this episode: