How Effective Employee Feedback Helps Managers
It's not enough to be a good manager—you must continuously learn how to be better.
Learn how to improve workplace efficiency with our guide on the Do’s & Dont's for One-on-One (1:1) Meetings
You’re not going to like this, but one-on-one meetings can be a waste of time. Imagine spending time talking with an employee, but you’re not prepared, and you end up dominating the conversation. The meeting ends with no actionable steps, and the employee is left feeling scolded.
Great 1:1s are like speeches. They seem effortless but require a lot of effort. And just like great speeches, they keep your employees engaged and satisfied.
Professionally run, one-on-ones can be a manager’s secret weapon. This article will explore what employees and managers should and should not do to ensure a successful one-on-one.
A 1:1 meeting is a regular check-in between managers and employees. It can also be between team members who share similar goals and it can hold anytime and anywhere. The best one-on-one meetings feature a balance of official and unofficial conversations.
The purpose of one-on-one meetings is to gain helpful insight into the team member’s experience. It also serves to:
How long should one-on-ones be? They should typically run for 30 to 60 minutes. As a manager, scheduling one hour to talk to every team member at least once a month can be a lot. To fulfill its purpose, it’s best to be prepared and stick to the allotted time.
When run effectively, one-on-one meetings can benefit both managers and team members. How so?
As a leader, 1-on-1 meetings can help you:
Effective one-on-one meetings can help employees to:
Wondering how to make your one-on-one meetings successful? Here’s what to do.
Nobody likes having meetings sprung on them without explanations. Help your team embrace the idea by telling them ahead of time that you plan to start having 1-on-1 meetings. Reiterate the importance of these meetings. Also, explain that it applies to everyone. This way, they won’t feel singled out, and they’ll be more willing to open up.
To drive successful conversations, it is vital that you use a collaborative agenda. This means you and your employee can see it and add items to it before the meeting. An agenda fosters open communication. It also helps you take note of issues that are important to the team member.
To make the best out of your meeting, use Assembly’s one-on-one meeting template.
One key purpose of a one-on-one meeting is to solve work-related problems. So when an employee expresses concern or opens up about difficulties and challenges they face at work, actively address them. Pay attention to them and help them see the challenge as a learning opportunity.
Use this as an opportunity to get personal with them. Remember that they have lives outside the work environment and that external factors can affect their productivity. If possible, steer the conversation away from work. Let them see that you care. To build a stronger relationship, offer to work on the challenge as a team.
You can’t totally skip giving negative feedback. But you can tailor the delivery to have a positive effect. Consider checking the employee’s self-awareness first. Ask questions like:
If they are self-aware, they’ll easily point out areas that need fixing. If they don’t, you need to be clear about specific aspects of their performance that need improvement. Help them understand how this affects the team. Suggest actionable ways to fix up.
Effective one-on-one meetings are more about the employee and less about the manager.
In this vein, apply the 80:20 ratio. Let your employee talk 80% while you talk 20% of the time. Since they hear from you all the time, it’s only fair that one-on-one meetings with employees are tailored to give them room to express themselves as much as they want - no interruptions. This also means that you get as much insight as possible.
You can make this possible by creating a safe environment where team members can speak freely. Create a thoughtful agenda. Use questions strategically. Craft questions that are specific to the individual and listen with an open mind. Ladder questions to gain deeper insights from the employee. If you need some time to respond to something they say, let them know, and be sure to follow up after the meeting.
Make a list of things your employees did well. This can include tasks that they handled well or deadlines that they met. You can also highlight instances where they took initiative or showed progress. For a more employee-centered approach, try asking:
Acknowledging and celebrating even minor wins will boost their morale. Rewards can be as simple as a gift voucher or a free lunch at their favorite restaurant. It’s a simple but effective way to keep employees satisfied.
Before concluding the one-on-one, it is important to establish your expectations. Both parties should be aligned on next steps. With this, you can hold them accountable and pave the way for constant follow-up. It’s also important that you take notes during the meeting. You can revisit these when necessary and use them to track progress, decisions, and accountability.
Meetings are never productive if both parties don't have a clear agenda. As a manager, you need to plan and be ready to lead the discussion. Prepare to ask the right questions to help the employee open up. With a proper checklist, you can be sure of what you need to do before, during, and after the meeting. That way, your one-on-one will not end up punctuated with awkward silences and irrelevant banter.
Although a 1-on-1 meeting can be an excellent opportunity to discuss an employee’s performance, it is not the same as a performance review.
Focus on giving feedback and discussing current goals, career aspirations, and any nagging concerns the employee may have. If the meeting is for a yearly review, highlight individual, team, and organizational goals. Offer managerial help and support and explore avenues for professional development and career growth.
As much as you’d want to stay in the loop, avoid turning your one-on-ones into a project status update. Instead, create other avenues for getting project status reports. You could initiate weekly emails or use project management tools to keep track of tasks and projects.
It’s important to learn from past mistakes. However, dwelling on them and bringing them up repeatedly is counterproductive. Focus on current and future events and activities.
As much as you want to help your team members, you can’t fix all their problems. To be an effective coach, it is best to guide them to the solution. Use smart questions to engage their problem-solving skills. This way, they’ll be better equipped to handle such problems in the future.
Need help structuring effective 1:1s? Watch the video below!
Since you’re the main subject of the one-on-one meeting with your manager, it is the perfect time to talk about your career goals. Mention specific skills you would like to improve and if there’s a new role you aspire to, bring it up. Remember that it is your manager’s job to support you and he’s privy to opportunities you may not know about.
Taking notes during meetings helps you document key points. You also keep track of important decisions and can use them to monitor your progress. Besides, you want to remember aspects of your work that needs improvement.
You also don’t want to seem unserious when you don’t remember what was discussed in the last meeting. So, take notes. You can encourage your manager to take notes as well. If something is important to you, you’d want them to remember it. Try using positive reinforcement like thanking them for taking notes.
Don’t just walk away from the one-on-one with a “See you later”. Ensure that both you and your manager discuss actionable next steps. Why is this important? No action means no progress and no progress means no change.
If nothing changes after your 1-on-1 meeting, you can become disengaged and unproductive. Be proactive about this step by asking action-based questions like:
Presenting it as a social contract, you make your manager a part of the solution. You also ensure that they stay committed to your progress.
Want to stand out and make a difference? Ask your manager what you can do to make their work easier. It helps to see your manager as a human who’s doing their best to support you and everyone else in their team. Showing empathy and offering to help is an excellent way to make your 1-on-1s effective. Some proactive ways to support your manager include:
When you show initiative in supporting your manager, they’ll be inclined to do the same for you.
One-on-one meetings can’t be effective if they don’t happen. And, yes, it's tough to say no when your manager asks to cancel your one-on-one meeting. Although their reason for wanting to cancel is valid, completely canceling that 1-on-1 will end up doing more harm than good.
So what do you do? Offer to reschedule. This way, you agree to what they want at the moment without giving up a meeting that will benefit you. Be sure to suggest new times and once they agree to it, book it on your calendar.
We know this sounds odd but we mean it. 1:1s are the rare occasions your manager gets to meet with you alone. It is very easy for it to deviate into a progress report meeting. Next thing you know, you’ve spent the entire meeting talking about updates and there’s no time to talk about things that matter specifically to you. The best way to avoid this is to find other ways to give your manager status updates. Some great options include emails, StandUps, and through project management software.
Don’t show up at a one-on-one hoping that your manager has got everything covered. Even if they have a meeting agenda, you need to show up with a list of things you’d like to discuss. Take time to write out questions surrounding your career goals, team improvement, interpersonal issues, work policies, and any personal topics that may have an effect on your work.
Your manager may wrap up the meeting without giving feedback. Perhaps they forgot or are skeptical about the delivery and/or reception. It falls on you to then request feedback.
Ask specific questions about your performance, shortcomings, and strengths. If you would like coaching on any aspect, ask. When the request comes from you, your manager is more likely to create time to help you.
The first step to having an effective one-on-one meeting with employees is an open mind. Walk into the meeting with patience, curiosity, and the willingness to offer support where necessary.
With Assembly, one-on-one meetings won’t feel like a chore. Book a demo today to learn how you can add structure and accountability to your 1-on-1 meetings.
It's not enough to be a good manager—you must continuously learn how to be better.