Last month, we discussed the importance of employee recognition and how to accomplish employee recognition in a virtual environment. Today we’re going to delve into another important way to connect with and motivate your employees: one-on-one meetings.

Workplace trends are resulting in more and more digital communication. Whether working in the office or virtually, the use of email, text, and instant messaging has become the primary method of communication.

It’s easy for managers to lose sight of the importance and effectiveness of regular face-to-face, one-on-one meetings.

The Importance of One-On-One Meetings

One-on-one meetings are one of the most important productivity tools that a manager can use to connect with and motivate their employees.

They provide a platform where you can recognize positive contributions, discuss and coach performance issues, and talk about strategic aspects of the employee’s work. If conducted effectively, they build a connection between you and your employee that serves as a foundation for the employee’s growth and productivity.

One-on-one meetings give you the opportunity to guide each employee along a path to success, creating an environment in which they feel supported and encouraged.

In addition to employee coaching and growth, one-on-one meetings present you, the manager, with opportunities to discover how you may need to change and improve as a manager.

A final benefit: individual employees will respond to different management techniques, and one-on-one meetings will help you discover what management tools that specific employee responds well to, as well as which ones don’t work as well.

Characteristics of Successful One-On-One Meetings

Effective one-on-one meetings with direct reports can look different from one meeting to the next, but successful meetings share these key characteristics:

Don’t only meet when there are problems to discuss.

This is an easy trap to fall into. When things are going well, it’s easy to cancel your one-on-one meeting to create time for more pressing matters.

When this happens, you slowly redefine one-on-one meetings to be something your employee (and you) dread, as they only happen when there are tough issues to discuss.

One of the primary benefits of one-on-one meetings is developing a connection with the employee and building trust. Employees deserve to hear what they are doing right just as much as discussing areas where improvement is needed.

Block out a recurring meeting schedule on your calendars.

The frequency and length of your one-on-one meetings will be determined by a variety of factors:

  • Size of your team
  • Size of your organization
  • Level of experience of your employee
  • Amount of guidance and feedback your employee needs

The frequency of the meetings needs to match the need of the specific employee. What is most important is that you schedule them as a repeating event.

If you find you need to have them more or less often, adjust the repeating event until you find a frequency that works well for both you and the employee.

Be on time.

Arriving late to a meeting sends a strong nonverbal message to your employee that they aren’t a priority.

Be Present

When you are meeting with your employee, turn off your computer screen and set your phone to silent so you are not distracted by rings or notifications.

Constantly checking your phone or glancing at your computer sends a message to your employee that whatever you’re looking at is more important.

Start each meeting on a positive note.

Begin each meeting by recognizing something positive about the employee’s work. It can be an area you have seen them striving to improve in, a presentation they excelled at, or an issue they pitched in to help solve. This creates positive energy and sets a good tone for the meeting.

Set up a rough template to follow.

Having a rough order of conversation defined for your meetings helps guide the discussion. Some managers like to discuss successes and challenges encountered since the previous meeting.

Others send their employees a template to fill out, where they can list the challenges they are currently facing along with potential solutions they have identified. This not only empowers the employee to solve problems by identifying possible solutions, but also leaves more meeting time available for you to give them constructive feedback on each possible solution.

Leave time for employee-led discussion.

Be sure you set aside time in each meeting for the employee to express any concerns, share any successes, or ask for guidance.

Ask open-ended questions. Ask how they are doing outside of work to give them an opportunity to talk about anything they might want to share on a personal level.

You can also ask if there are any areas of their job where they feel frustrated or stuck. Be sure to listen and validate, don’t just offer solutions. You can ask them what they have tried to remedy the situation, and offer guidance to help turn it into a learning opportunity.

Doing so will make your employees feel valued and supported.

Offer Constructive Feedback.

One of the biggest mistakes a manager can make is waiting to discuss problem behaviors or performance issues at the employee’s performance review. Performance reviews should have no surprises – good or bad.

When employees struggle or have performance issues, be upfront and address them in the one-on-one meeting. Identify the issue in a matter-of-fact way. Listen to the employee’s response and offer constructive feedback.

Don’t give your employee the answers. Instead, ask them to come up with possible solutions, and show them how to evaluate the solutions and decide which has the most potential.

Follow up in the next meeting: evaluate what worked and what didn’t and point out positive progress if it occurred.

Create a List of Action Items.

Defining a list of action items sets clear expectations and reduces miscommunications. Work with the employee to set realistic timelines for each item, and prioritize list items so you are both in agreement about which items are most important.

Close the Meeting with Positivity and Gratitude.

End the meeting on a good note.

Thank the employee for a project they completed, or express the value of their contribution to a bigger goal.

You should not say something if you don’t feel it’s true, you need to be genuine and authentic.

A simple “thank you” or “I appreciate the work you do” can be just as powerful.

How Do I Create Time For One-On-One Meetings?

Are you struggling to find the time to have one-on-one meetings with your employees?

Robin Kramer is an Online Business Manager that has been working with small businesses for 23 years. She can help you analyze your overwhelming to-do list to identify what tasks need your executive expertise, and which ones she can manage for you to free your valuable time.

To learn more about Robin’s skills and how she could help your business, contact her for a free consultation today

Next Month’s Article Preview: How to Give Constructive Feedback to Your Employees.