One on One belongs to the basic technique of a manager and almost every line manager uses that technique in some form. In general it means meeting with your direct reports regularly and if possible in private.
The main benefit of 1o1s is to get detailed feedback on what is going on in your team and to have a chance to amend some problems right in the beginning. When done correctly it pays off greatly.
Goal of the one on one meeting
Main goal of a regular 1o1 is to hold a finger on a pulse of your team. If you use the technique right, you get to know your team really well and the trust in you as a line manager will grow significantly.
Your main task is to monitor their strengths and recognize their weaknesses
Main contribution is that you will know every of your report in detail. Your main task is to monitor their strengths and recognize their weaknesses. Management based on recognition of strengths of the teams members is described in detail in a management best seller Positive Leader (see my review).
You will find out very soon what type of work they like and therefore are good at and what they would prefer to run away from. If you build up a confidence, your reports will be telling you personal issues too and if you use these information sensitively and really care, loyalty to you as a manager and to the company will have solid ground.
Main contribution is that you will know every of your report in detail. Your main task is to monitor their strengths and recognize their weaknesses. You will find out very soon what type of work they like and therefore are good at and what they would prefer to run away from. If you build up a confidence, your reports will be telling you personal issues too and if you use these information sensitively and really care, loyalty to you as a manager and to the company will have solid ground.
Very often there are speculations, fears or uncertainties about situation in the company based on the “urinal rumors” (according to the place where these speculations are spread). These are usually mentioned during 1o1 and you have a chance to explain the situation and to suppress possible rumors.
Suitable frequency of one on one meetings
How often do you meet with your direct reports depends heavily on number of employees under your supervision.
General rule that can be read in most management text books is to spend one hour with every of your direct reports every week in 1o1 meetings. That means that if you do anything else than 1o1s during your work week, you should have maximum 10-20 direct reports and it´s not always the case. Both you usually have more reports or you have other important tasks in your schedule. Then you have to reduce the general rule and meet with employees less often (once in a two weeks for example).
Tweak to the schoolbooks´s approach
Another way and my preferable is to select a team or team members that you will meet less often (once in a month) and the ones you need to supervise more often (every week).
Usually you need to supervise younger colleagues, new recruits and people in demanding projects much more often than stable colleagues on steady projects even though they also want and need to be heard.
Length of the one on one meeting
There is nothing worse than to be forced to finish the meeting too early without well argumented solution
I strongly do not recommend to shorten the 1o1 meeting or at least the reserved time slot under one hour. It usually takes some time and questioning before you get to the core of the problem that troubles your colleague. And it also takes time and thinking about the solution of a problem and there is nothing worse than to be forced to finish the meeting too early without well argumented solution or advice to your colleague.
Techniques for one on one meeting
Rule of a thumb is that the manager should talk at most 10 percent of the overall time. Sounds good isn´t it? It´s harder than you think, you need to pay attention to details, make notes and ask clever open-ended questions. Most of the time you need to use technique called active listening that I will describe in some of the following articles. This technique will also come handy when raising kids and trying not to be in a conflict all the time.
I always start with asking about the situation at current project. As a line manager I´m not so interested in technical issues, however I use that as an ice breaker (and also the technical part of me likes that). What I´m really looking for are information about issues in the team, what they like and dislike about the project, if they are satisfied with current allocation and so on.
And you also almost never get to the information you get to know when meeting colleagues in private.
1o1s can be also realized as a more frequent quick check-up if everything is all right in a room with other colleagues. However, this should only supplement less regular 1o1s in private and not to replace them. The disadvantage is that you often come into the room when it may not be convenient because of the concentration of the team on some problem, some discussion in progress or conference calls. And you also almost never get to the information you get to know when meeting colleagues in private.
And that´s it, 1o1s takes time, lot of time however it seems to me as an irreplaceable source of valuable information and chance to build up a confidence in you as a manager.
It´s pretty hard to find some sources on how to do a proper one on one meeting, however this article is pretty good.
This story was also published on Medium.com.