4 Areas to Cover at Every 1:1 Meeting with Your Direct Report

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1:1 meetings are vital to ensuring your team’s success. They allow you to gain status updates and give your team the opportunity to have direct time with you to ask questions and share their thoughts.

While working with leaders, I often noticed that these meetings are focused solely on project checklists, where it feels more like an inquisition than an opportunity to learn from each other.  While, yes, you want to check on the status of key projects, there are other valuable areas to cover that will foster team effectiveness.  Here are four components that should be included at every 1:1 meeting.

Provide them with a “North Star”.  Many times your team is unclear on what success looks like, or there’s a misalignment between your expectations and theirs. Make it plain. State clearly what you expect to be done and answer any questions they might have.

Make a human connection. This is simply a personal check-in of some sort where you learn more about them outside of work tasks. I’m not saying get all up in their business, but I have found it valuable to learn about my team members’ personal interests and make sure to make space for that during both 1:1 and full team meetings.

This can be done in several different ways. I prefer to start the meeting with this so that we don’t run out of time and omit it.  I also always make sure to model the behavior, typically going first so they see an example of the type of answer they could provide. Here are a few ideas:

  • Open-ended: Any personal updates you want to share?

  • Favorites: What’s your favorite snack these days?

  • Recent moment: What was something that made you laugh last week?

  • Resources to share: Any suggestions of a tv show worth binge-watching?

One important caveat: There are certain topics that are universally off-limits at work. So avoid those. Be sure not to cross the line of inappropriate questions or things that may make them uncomfortable (refer to your HR personnel if you are unsure).

Inquire about ways you can support them. -This may seem like a no-brainer. But sometimes as we focus intensely on to-do lists and tactical questions, we forget to see what they may need from us. So before you close the meeting, be sure to ask them, “Is there anything you need from me in order to be successful” or simply “How can I help?” Then, wait at least 10-15 seconds before moving on (count in your head if you must). This allows the person time to think of their genuine response instead of the knee-jerk answer.

Celebrate big/small wins – this doesn’t have to be grandiose each time. But look for ways to acknowledge your team in the big AND little things. “Hey, I noticed you finished that project a day early. Nicely done.” “The client mentioned they enjoy working with you. Keep it up.” Look for opportunities to give kudos during these meetings. It will go a long way.

As I mentioned at the start, 1:1s are so important to your role as a leader. Connecting individually with your team is foundational for building rapport and trust, both of which are critical aspects of team effectiveness.  At times, 1:1s may feel like a chore given all of the other work you are expected to do as a leader.  However, make sure to prioritize them.  It will pay off in the end as your team will feel heard, seen, and supported.  Pro tip: To take it a step further, add office hours to your schedule where you offer drop-in time for team members to connect with you.  Your team will appreciate it greatly.  Thank me later. 🙂

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