1 on 1 meetings: how to improve your strategy for amazing results

A team worth what its people worth, and that’s why you have to keep your collaborators motivated and happy. There are several ways to achieve this goal, and 1-on-1 meetings are one of the strategies that work best to find out what employees’ expectations and goals are. 

Thanks to these talks, team managers can identify the main motivators of each employee, as well as those problems that may be affecting their development and performance. 

These meetings, which can be held weekly or monthly, also serve to contextualize the results obtained from the surveys carried out with Team Insights. Through interviews and personal conversations, we will be able to obtain a large amount of qualitative information that will help us to have a deep understanding of the state of the corporate culture and the work environment of our organization. 

The 1-on-1 is, without a doubt, a tool with enormous potential to build better teams if we know how to carry them out, which implies going beyond asking about the day-to-day and letting employees vent by explaining their frustrations. 

These face-to-face meetings represent an ideal setting to ask relevant and significant questions, the answers to which will not only help you as a manager to get to know your team better, but will also serve as a guide to employees: a better understanding of their task, better execution and satisfaction. 

1-on-1 meetings: more than just a casual chat 

At a first sight, 1-on-1 meetings take place through informal conversations with little or no structure. 

Managers and their team members talk freely about their routines, how they feel, what challenges they face, if they need help… in short, we speak to obtain information on how to create a better environment in which workers can be more motivated, satisfied, engaged and happy. 

For this reason, we cannot miss the opportunity to improve our management and the employee experience because we do not know how to lead this type of meeting. 

Below, we share with you the structure of a 1 on 1 meeting that will hepl you to take your meetings with your employees to the next level. 

1. The three key questions

As we said, 1:1 meetings are informal chats. This is so because employees feel more predisposed to share their vision about the organization and open up with their managers without fear of being judged and rejected.  

But also, because in that way employees know more personally who is in charge of managing the team in a less rigid and corseted context. 

Even so, the 1 on 1 are too important not to prepare a structure that serves to take advantage of time and, above all, obtain truly valuable information. So, instead of talking about random topics, start with these three simple questions: 

  • What is working in the team? 
  • What can we improve? 
  • Is there something we’re missing? 

Why these questions? Because they encourage employees to think positively, fostering them to respond honestly. If we asked them what is not working, we could drive a feeling of discomfort by pushing employees to say not-so-nice things about the organization. 

Once the questions have been launched, write down the employee’s answers on a piece of paper or on a whiteboard. You will need them later! 

2. Digging into the answers

The next step is to discuss the answers. The main problem with ineffective 1:1s is that conversations stay on the surface. Instead, once you have the answers written down, you can ask your interlocutors the reasons for their conclusions. 

Imagine that an employee told you that the weekly meetings are not working as they should. It is your time to ask, why do you think they are not working? It is important to emphasize the you , since we are talking about a person’s vision of their work and our task is to understand the difficulties they might be going through. 

When discussing the answers with our collaborators, remember: 

  • We must not judge. 
  • We need to listen more than talk. 
  • We must be honest but polite. 
  • We have to show a real and genuine interest in what they are telling us. 

What other questions can help us get to the root of the answers? 

  • “Is there a pattern you can identify in what you’re telling me?” 
  • “What is it that makes X work?” 
  • “You said that X could be improved. What would you do?” 
  • “You haven’t mentioned anything about X. Why?” 
  • “How does X influence your results?” 

Keep in mind that 1-on-1s are not interrogations. These are still informal conversations, so feel free to add your own ideas and comments. 

3. Empowering employees

Ok, at this point, you can get an idea of what is going through the minds of the employees and, as a manager, your task is to help them overcome the challenges. 

Empowering teams is one of the most important goals in the role of people manager. However, we do not always know how we can make them take more control over their work, making them more autonomous and motivated professionals. 

The first thing we have to take into account in this situation is that not all people have the same perception of autonomy. So 1:1s can also help you visualize employees’ assumptions about their level of influence on their own decisions. 

But how? With the help of the answers you have noted above. 

Ask your team member the following: “About what’s working, what could be better, and what we’re missing: what is under your direct control, indirect control, and out of control?” 

For a better understanding, you can use different keys (colors, numbers…) to put your collaborator’s perceptions in order. 

Once the exercise is done, analyze the result: 

  • Are there too many things appearing out of control? 
  • Is there a correlation between what works and what doesn’t, and the level of responsibility? 
  • Are there differences between their perceptions and yours? Where do these differences appear? 

You may find that you have a lot of work to do with some employees. If so, it’s ok. Select two or three points, those that are most urgent to address, and focus on working them with your team member in several sessions of 1 on 1. Which leads us to the next point. 

4. Setting objectives

In the last part of a 1 on 1, we establish the goals for the next meeting. These conversations are useless if we do nothing to improve the dynamics that make employees dissatisfied. 

Here you can take two directions: let the employees themselves set the goals to achieve, or be the one to give them some guidelines to follow for the next time. 

To make goal setting easier, you can ask your collaborators what they can do to start changing things, or use suggestions based on your own experiences. 

It’s also a good idea to think about what you would have liked to have been advised when you were in the position of your team members. 

Either way, it is essential to leave these objectives clear and noted so you can review them in the next 1 on 1. 

In conclusion… 

1-on-1 meetings can become more than just the time of chit-chat with your employees. They can be the safe space in which to begin to become aware of what motivates, worries or stops your team from being the best, and take action on the matter. 

In addition, if you accompany these sessions with the recurring use of Team Insights, you will be able to see the results in real time and see how your organization evolves into a better place to work, where your employees are always happy and content. 

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