a guide and some magic
Whether they’re called “1:1”, “Weekly”, “Check-In”, “Update Call” or else - we all know them and they’re part of our work routine: Regular one-on-one meetings with our manager or direct reports.
These meetings might seem tedious, because they’re always on repeat. But they are unbelievably important for a good working atmosphere.
And especially important when working in a remote team, because this might actually be the only time during the week that you have a real and uninterrupted conversation with someone.
So, really try and make the most out of them.
Here some quick tips on how to make your 1:1s more effective:
These might sound like a no-brainer, but they deserve an extra mention. Because we all fall guilty of neglecting them way too often…
1) Schedule enough time for your meeting
This might be the only time during the week where you have a real talk with the person. Pencil in enough time to not be rushed.
2) Be present
For non-remote teams that would most likely mean: Laptops closed during the talk. When working remotely this means: Shut down chat and email notifications, open the video call in a new window, put away your phone to not let yourself get distracted. Be fully there and laser-focused on the person you’re talking to.
3) Take notes
When trying to really focus maybe consider taking actual hand-written notes and transferring them later to a shared doc. But however note-taking works best for you: Take them. Revisit them later. Our minds are sieves during busy times, so really: Take notes. There is no way around it.
4) Come prepared
Do your homework. Re-read the notes from last time before entering the meeting. Don’t just jump on the call unprepared. Be mindful of the other person’s time, so make sure you complete your action items and bring value to the conversation.
We all know: Content is key. So make the 1:1 worthwhile by covering these topics. Of course this is a non-exhaustive list and doesn’t have to be followed in order, but in our experience you can cover a lot of ground with these:
1) Hello, how are you?
Start the conversation by checking in with the other person. Ask them how they are. Don’t do it in a perfunctory manner, but really listen. Ask follow up questions.
Are they happy? Do they feel stressed? What is going on with them outside of the office? How we feel influence how we act. This in turn influences team dynamics, work output etc.
So, yes, do a check-in. Especially when working remotely this is your chance to really see things about the other person, because unlike in the office you might not see slumped shoulders otherwise.
2) What did we talk about last time?
Remember about the “note taking” hygiene factor? We’ve mentioned it for a reason. In a 1:1 you should revisit what you’ve discussed in your last meeting. What were action items you’ve agreed upon? Did you move things forward? Don’t let things slip, but make it a habit to check back what was the output of the last meeting.
3) What’s on your docket this week?
Take time to discuss what’s up this week. What are they working on? What progress are they making? What is holding them back? Do they need help from you or someone else?
Try not to micro-manage each task but give freedom and only zoom in when needed.
4) How are you developing?
Use the time in your 1:1 to also discuss feedback and personal or professional development you’ve noticed. Regularly check in with the development plan you’ve set up, track actions and progress, see where they might need support (if there is no development plan, it might be a good idea to start one). Every conversation is a chance to support the other person in their growth, so seize that opportunity.
5) What’s next?
Again: Hello notes. Agree upon next steps or action items, and take notes about them. Because guess what? Yes, you will revisit them in your next meeting.
Want to make your 1:1s extra special? Then consider these extravagant actions to take
1) Make it personal
Every person is different. And every person has different preferences. So think about how you can tailor the 1:1 format to each person’s need. These might include how to take notes or how to structure them.
Consider what meeting format to choose - in general, 1:1s should be “camera on” meetings, but maybe the flow gets better when you make it a walking 1:1 phone call? Unsure what works best? Just ask your team about what they prefer.
2) Make it a two-way conversation
Want to make your team feel psychologically safe? Model honesty, model risk taking. Share back, tell them how you are feeling, how you are dealing with stressful situations. Use the meetings to create a bond.
3) Think ahead
Anticipate roadblocks or topics that could come up. Sometimes it’s easier to do that when you’re not involved in the daily work that much, but can take a bird’s eye perspective. Also, be constantly on the lookout for interesting insights, topics or development opportunities for each team member. Forward them interesting emails, send links in the chat, take notes about things you see and discuss it in the next 1:1.
Yup, this needs to happen every week. Find your way and your style and go for it. So you get the most out of that precious time your spend with your team!
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