7 tips to make your one-on-one worth your time

Time is of the essence and we only have so much to spend on aimless chit-chat with our manager or a direct report. That’s why I’ve got a few tips to make the most out of your next one-on-one:

  • Set an agenda. By setting an agenda you can tackle the points and cover them without leaving anything out. Start with the topics you want to discuss with your manager or direct report. Send the agenda a day in advance, that way it will give you and the other person involved in the one-on-one the chance to add topics. Usually, the person responsible for the one-on-one agenda is the direct report, since it is his/her own personal time that will be spent with his/her manager. I recommend the Cisco Webex app to track your meeting. This tool will let you add points to your agenda, write notes, create and assign action items to the people involved in the meeting.
    Note: Always be mindful of your schedule. If you see that time is running out or if the topic you want to discuss might take more time than usual, clear it with the other person involved in the one-on-one.
  • Present your ideas. Whether your one-on-one is in-person or remote, presenting new ideas can give you the chance to see your manager’s reaction, his/her input and feedback. This is a great way to help you improve your work or even let go of some ideas.
  • Have no fear. Share your perspective on your team and the company. Your manager’s insight could help you clarify your doubts. Speaking out may also give information to your manager about some issues he was not aware of yet. The point is, don’t be afraid to talk about the hard stuff.
  • Ask for feedback. The more specific and action-based your questions are, the easier it will be for your manager to provide you with proper feedback that’ll help you grow and develop your skill set. Focus on questions that demand actionable items to address later. E.g. “How can I improve my sentence structure while dealing with a customer?”
“Managers should be aware of how important people are and associates should be aware that one-on-one is their own time.” -Merrene Caines Program Manager at @PartnerHero
  • Discuss plans of action and follow up on them. What are your roadblocks, turnarounds, and deadlines and how can you solve them. Monitor and evaluate the action plan, restart with a new problem, or refine an older one.
  • Keep it personal and relax. View your one-on-ones as improving opportunities to improve, not just to check-in on what you’re working on. Use this time to connect with your manager or direct report. Be empathetic.
  • Build trust. By doing so, you can increase your team’s productivity. How do you do it?

Listen. Lead by example. Communicate honestly and openly. Do what you say you are going to do. If your company offers a 9 day fortnight, use this extra time to build relationships and trust during your one-on-ones, ensuring a more productive and connected team environment.

An important thing to note: This is not a status-update meeting. Don’t treat it as such. There are plenty of other opportunities to check up on work progress. The purpose of this discussion is to make sure the associate is happy. If you feel the need, you can follow-up with a working session.

Luis Hernandez Blanco