How to organize a comfortable one-on-one meeting

One-on-one meetings with managers are nerve-wracking situations. While it’s a way to give feedback and assess how your team is doing, it is also at risk of being performative, or worse, unnecessary. 

When unplanned, pre-meeting anxieties can easily turn into unintended sources of stress. You need to apply time-management tips and have agendas, talking points, and expectations in place even before the meeting happens.

Why do check-ins?

One-on-one meetings or check-ins are routine sessions between employees and managers to assess performance and track an employee’s engagement with the company. It’s a tried and tested way to get constructive feedback from your team. It’s also a good way to usher in changes within workflows, introduce new policies, and bring positive change.

How to make the meeting a success

It can be a chore to talk to everyone on your team, but listening is a good way to demonstrate your leadership flexibility. After all, these meetings are good ways to nip roadblocks in the bud and check how your team is doing. 

To make check-ins a success, managers have to take an active role in creating a space of trust and safety for the employees. Good subjects for one-on-one meetings include:

  • How your employee is doing in a specific project
  • What roadblocks they are experiencing in the company
  • How you, as the manager, can help with these issues and even share techniques, such as productivity hacks

In fact, it’s recommended that you build a one-on-one meeting template to standardize check-ins across the board. 

One-on-one meetings with a manager can feel scary and for a good reason. It’s hard to express frustrations with someone in a more senior position. That’s why it is essential that employees feel comfortable speaking with you.

Make your employee feel safe

There are a lot of factors today that may increase your employee’s stress levels, so make sure that check-ins are an excellent space to let out any complaints. A good subject to start in one-on-one meetings is points of improvement for management. Give your team the chance to give suggestions or ways that would make their life easier. 

Also, receive feedback with an open ear and try not to get defensive too quickly. Sometimes, even the most minuscule complaints have a shred of truth.

Ask more questions

To tease out a fair assessment from your team, it’s best to stay quiet and ask pointed questions. Allow your employees to elaborate on what works and what doesn’t work for them. Here are some one-on-one meeting questions that may help spark conversations:

  • What do you value most in the company?
  • What is challenging you right now?
  • How can I assist with any work-related roadblocks?

Turning the focal point of the meeting on the employee instead of yourself makes it easier for you to offer solutions.

Express empathy

One-on-one meetings are an exchange of ideas between you and your employee. What’s important to keep in mind is how your employee is feeling. Check-ins, after all, serve to foster trust and connection between members and senior managers. Team members wouldn’t want to stay in a company that doesn’t understand them.

End with an action item

Being heard isn’t nearly enough to retain employees, though. What they need to see is an actual change being implemented in the company. 

To emphasize that you are willing to be flexible, end with points that you can easily improve upon. This may look like giving your employees more wriggle room for deadlines or giving them more challenging roles. You can even use this time to schedule another check-in in the future.

Check-ins are great ways to connect and improve company culture. Make sure to make meetings count.