One-on-One Best Practices and Template by Crystal Proenza
Best Practices for 1:1s with Your Direct Reports
- Use a tracking document [link redacted] to set expectations for 1:1s. The document allows you to follow along with your direct report’s progress, accomplishments, red flags, etc. It’s proven that employees are 2.5 times more engaged if a manager helps to set expectations. This not only gives you a place to look back and reference previously discussed topics, it forces your direct report to think through what they would like to discuss previous to the 1:1, putting more intention behind the meeting.
- A 1:1 is your team member’s meeting - as the manager, you are making yourself available to them fully, and so it is good for them to understand that the 1:1 is “their” time. They can choose the topics to bring up, and of course you can also give them feedback.
- During these 1:1s listening is key as a manager. Listen more than you think you should. Delay your natural inclination to jump in. Do level two listening - which means you’re not just listening to relate - you are making a person feel seen by listening to learn more about what this MEANS to the employee. If they're struggling - ask "What will be hard about this?" Ask, "Will it be helpful for us to brainstorm?” before you jump in with ideas.
- Give your employee ALL of your attention. This seems somehow easier with virtual meetings. The key is not to look at your phone or any other apps during your 1:1. This is your chance to connect and make your team member feel seen.
- Treat the 1:1 as one of your most important meetings. Try not to reschedule too much, and if you do make sure you give a reason and get it back on the calendar. It’s important for an employee to know that you are prioritizing them. Role model time integrity - start on time and end on time and if you’re late talk about how you know the impact that will have on your meeting.
- When asking questions, avoid "Why" questions as they can sometimes put people on the defensive because it can be construed as accusatory. Focus more on "What" and "How" questions. Instead of “Why did you do that?” ask “How did we get to this issue?” Instead of “Why are we doing it this way?” ask “How do you see us moving forward?” or “What were you expecting to happen?”
- Give feedback directly - managers are sometimes nervous to tell truths because they're afraid of damaging relationships, but people appreciate the truth. Use these 1:1s to give quick feedback about their work, a recent presentation, etc. The feedback can be positive or points for them to work on. The most important thing is that it is timely and the truth. Stating facts about what you’ve observed and then saying something like "help me understand what's going on" leaves the conversation open for them to respond. "What can I do to help you get back on track?"
- Have clear goals set for the employee. You don't want them to ask "what am I supposed to be doing?" That should always be clear. Including metrics in your 1:1 tracking document can be helpful here. If you need someone to deliver 10 pieces of content this quarter, have them track that number every week. It keeps the goal top of mind for them and you.
- Use the opportunity to build trust. Asking a team member for their thoughts on an initiative or an idea is one way to do that. If someone weighs in on a topic, they are more likely to buy in. This is very useful when you’re implementing a big shift or change.