5 ways to get the most out of one-on-ones

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A list of insights and ideas from industry experts on 1:1 sessions
General one-on-one best practices
Keep your one-on-one time sacred. Of course you might need to move it, but if you do, reschedule quickly and make sure you meet on the cadence you agreed to. Even if there's not a clear agenda, it's good to still connect and just check-in. You might be surprised the meaty topics that sometimes bubble up. If none do, this can still be a good time to build trust and get to know each other better.
Make sure to touch on how you're doing, even outside of work. Context on how you're doing overall is helpful to get you the support or freedom you need. Doing this first will help set the tone for the rest of the meeting.
Generally, one-on-ones should not always be a status update. If it's helpful to talk through meaty challenges with current projects or agreeing to your priorities, that's great. Otherwise, we'd encourage you to find other ways to share your status updates.
A good rule of thumb for how to divide up your one-on-one session time is to use approximately 1/3 of the time for your agenda items, 1/3 for the managers, and 1/3 on career conversations or feedback (positive and constructive!) for each other. However, tailor this to fit your needs.
Agree upon a follow-up plan on any feedback, areas for development, career goals, etc discussed in your one-on-one.

Great one-on-one advice from others

Begin each meeting by sharing a win. It creates positive energy.
Notify your employee in advance if you plan to touch on professional development — those conversations require reflection and thought.
Be curious. Listen to your colleague’s concerns and provide feedback and ideas on how they might solve problems.
Cancel. Demonstrate to your employee that they take priority by arriving on time.
Be rigid. While it’s wise to have an agenda, it’s also important to be flexible.
Forget to say “thank you.” It’s important to show your colleague that you value them.

Have them
Be on time
Change the setting here and there
It's ok to cancel
Two ears one mouth
They own the agenda...mostly
Have a doc
Three high leverage agenda items for your one-on-one
Career development
Feedback: Get it, don't give it

Ask the right questions
Try and think about open-ended, thought-provoking, and big-picture questions that you can pull out when you find yourself needing a conversation starter.
Don't run the meeting
Not only does this allow your team to get the most out of the time, they’ll gain skills in setting an agenda and running an effective meeting.
Have a backup plan
Have a backup plan to get the conversation rolling - they suggest some ideas from , including a mini performance review or “my current disaster.."
Get out of the office
When you’re sitting in the conference room where you meet for work-related tasks every day, it’s too easy to fall into the habit of just talking about projects and the like.

If at all possible I don't move or cancel a one-on-one
Show up early/on time and prepared. Have your agenda ready, do any prep reading you need, come with the takeaways/notes/etc from the previous one-on-one ready to go. How you show up shows the person that it's valuable to you.
If I do need to move or cancel: do so with plenty of advance notice; reschedule if at all possible vs cancelling; apologize sincerely; offer an alternative avenue (e.g. "Can we do a zoom call as I'll be on the road that week?")
Defend your one-on-ones. If other folks ask you to be in meetings or make other commitments, if you have a one-on-one at that time, decline the other request or schedule around the existing one-on-one
Flex the format. I have various types of one-on-one, it's not just a uniform thing ...e.g. Some are short, catch up status meetings. Some are coaching sessions - where the person is expected to come prepared with a situation they want coaching on and we go through a coaching process...some are collaborative/working times where we are working together on something (a document, deck, plan, etc). It's nice to have a variety of ways to work and meet together!

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