8 Ways to Improve Your 1-on-1 Meetings

1-on-1 meetings are crucial to the success of your company.

Sound exaggerated? Think about it. 1-on-1 meetings are a tool used to help your employees succeed, which directly impacts how well your company performs. Without these meetings, you’d have directionless, disengaged employees — which isn’t good for team morale or accomplishing goals.

The purpose of 1-on-1s is to have managers meet with their direct report to build rapport, discuss performance, coach them toward goals, and help remove their blockers to success.

There are rules of engagement when it comes to 1-on-1s. In this article, we’ll cover 8 ways your managers can improve their meetings with direct reports.

The benefits of continuous feedback conversations


8 Manager Tips for 1-on-1 Meetings

1. Don’t skip the 1-on-1

Rule number one of 1-on-1s: never skip them. It doesn’t matter how busy your management team gets. A 1-on-1 that’s regularly skipped or rescheduled indicates to the employee that they’re not a priority. And that fosters feelings of indifference, which can cause disengagement.

Reschedule meetings if needed. But even then, as a manager, hold yourself accountable for tracking how many meetings you’ve rescheduled. If you realize neither party can attend a recurring meeting, set yourself up for success and reschedule it for a different day or time.

Plus, not meeting with your direct reports regularly can have a huge effect on your team’s work. Say, for example, you don’t see one of your employees one-on-one for several weeks. In that time, he decides the direction of a major project — and does it wrong. That can cause severe consequences your team will have to deal with eventually — costing everyone precious time, effort, and money. So maintain frequent communication to avoid simple, but significant, issues.

Learn how Kazoo sets 1-on-1s up for success:
Kazoo for Conversations

2. Be prepared

Want to have a useless meeting? Well, if you don’t prepare before you come to the table, it’s more or less guaranteed to be — let’s be frank — a waste of time. Some people can operate on the fly, but many aren’t wired that way. In the latter category? Set yourself up for success by using a one-on-one meeting template to organize your thoughts.

It’s obvious to an employee when their manager is unprepared for a meeting. And that reflects poorly on the entire company. It makes an employee feel like their manager doesn’t care, which has a devastating effect on their employee experience.

What’s the best way to prepare for a meeting, then? Use performance management software to plan, document, and organize meetings for managers and direct reports.

Performance management software provides a shared space that only managers and their employees can see. It allows both of them to write down questions or feedback throughout the week leading up to the 1-on-1. That way, each party is aware of what will be discussed in the meeting, and there aren’t any surprises. It holds both parties accountable for being thoughtful about their allotted meeting time.

What’s more — performance management software can help managers address minor questions before a 1-on-1 to save time during their meetings.

3. Practice relationship building

Spend at least the first five minutes of the meeting on relationship building. Ignore the urge to jump right into business and get to know your employee as a person. This rapport is important for two reasons: it humanizes you as a manager, and it shows that you value your employees.

It’s easy to settle for the “How are you?” “Good.” routine. Dig deeper. Ask if your reports have any personal goals they’re working toward, or about their weekend.

If they are reticent to open up, show a little vulnerability first to encourage them. Be people first, colleagues second.

The power of vulnerability in 1-on-1s

4. Actively listen

Listening may not come naturally to everybody. The 1-on-1 is a great opportunity to brush up on this skill. Remember, the 1-on-1 is all about the employee, so give them a chance to speak.

Start the meeting by asking how the employee is doing. This helps you understand what to focus on during the meeting. It also gives you a quick temperature check of how the employee is thinking or feeling.

Don’t stop the employee when they’re talking. Instead, actively listen to them. Close your laptop, and take notes if applicable. Strive also to be aware of your body language — sit up straight, nod, and meet their eyes. All of these things may seem small, but together, they make a powerful difference.

5. Provide feedback

Giving feedback is an obvious but often overlooked part of 1-on-1s — don’t forget these meetings are a chance to provide honest and constructive feedback. Before giving feedback, get a progress report on daily tasks and goals. General updates like these can act as springboards to giving feedback.

“I like how you did this last week” or “This week, let’s focus on improving in this area” are ways you can dive in.

Make sure the managers give feedback that is specific, timely, and actionable. It might seem scary to deliver at first, but in reality, most people are hungry for feedback. Without it, areas of improvement are difficult to pinpoint.

Need to give feedback? No problem.
The Managers’ Ultimate Guide to Effective 1-on-1s

Article image for the Ultimate Guide to Effective 1-on-1s for Managers -- two speech bubbles on a purple background

6. Ask for feedback

Feedback is a two-way street. Encourage employees to give managers essential feedback. Asking for feedback opens the door for employees to say something they may have been hesitant to bring up.

Everyone can grow and improve, so have managers welcome and encourage constructive feedback on their management style. Accepting feedback will not only help managers succeed, but it will also strengthen their trust and respect with their direct reports.

And remember, don’t just accept the feedback — act on it to set an example.

7. Coaching

After going over the progress update, spend the rest of the time coaching. In order to do this correctly, it’s important for managers to understand their report’s motivations and long-term goals. That way managers can offer relevant advice and guide them in the right direction.

One important thing to keep in mind when coaching is making sure to ask open-ended questions so employees are mentally engaged. Don’t talk at them; that is not how anyone learns. Challenge them to think critically and solve the problem first before you offer a solution.

There are two ways to coach:

1. Choose a skill the employee currently struggles with; brainstorm paths to success.

Open-ended questions for this type of coaching can include:

  • What do you think you could improve on?
  • Why do you think you struggle with this?
  • What did you try last week that didn’t work as expected?
  • How are you going to approach the problem this week?
  • How are you going to accomplish this by the deadline?

2. Choose a skill the employee already excels at; push them to take it to the next level.

Questions to ask here are:

  • How can you use this skill to improve your workflow?
  • How can you use this skill to help the team overall?
  • What is the next step now that you have mastered this?

These open-ended questions encourage the employee to take ownership of their work and careers.

8. Keep track of what’s discussed

Here’s where performance management software is a game-changer.

Use performance management software to document what you discussed in 1-on-1s and update goals, as well as progress. It holds both parties accountable. And, at the most basic level, it’s great if you tend to be forgetful, or are especially busy.

So use performance management software to list action items from the meeting. Use notes from previous 1-on-1s to shape your next one. Take the time to document the process and you’ll streamline your meetings, saving everyone time and boosting productivity.

Take your 1-on-1s to the next level

Spending time on direct reports, no matter how well they appear to be doing, is always worth the effort. Kazoo’s all-in-one Employee Experience Platform streamlines the 1-on-1 process to make the effort easier to obtain.

Because at Kazoo, we’re passionate about bringing together all the tools you need to make work work better for everyone. That’s why the Kazoo Employee Experience Platform brings performance management and recognition and rewards — including Goals, Feedback, Conversations, Recognition, Incentives, and more — into one simple, easy-to-use platform.

If you’re ready to align, connect, and engage your workplace, check out our Kazoo overview. Or, schedule a personalized demo today.

Learn more