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The Anatomy of a Well-Structured 1 on 1 Meeting

The Betts Team
February 3, 2020

As a manager, you know that the more you invest in an employee, the more they should thrive. But some interventions are better than others – and there’s no more powerful tool in the manager’s arsenal than the 1 on 1. For sales and marketing staff, individual check-ins are vital to team member welfare, performance, and thus revenue. Here are some tips on how to structure 1 on 1 meetings and why they’re so important.

Before you start having 1 on 1 meetings, you need to hire. Here are our tips and best practices for faster and smarter sales hiring.

Prioritize the Meeting

It should go without saying, but often doesn’t: Your employees are your company’s best assets. One-on-one meetings are the grease that spins the wheels of everything your team does. Everyone is busy but one-on-ones should be a top priority. Determine the frequency of these meetings not by how much time you have as a manager, but by how much support your employee needs – for example, weekly check-ins are common for people in new roles, biweekly or less often is more common for veterans. Even if your employees seem OK to skip it, they need it – and so do you!

They don’t have to be long meetings, but it’s only in one-on-ones that you can find out what specific challenges your employee is facing, how their work is progressing, and how they feel about it. So make them happen!

Determine the frequency of these meetings not by how much time you have as a manager, but by how much support your employee needs.

Be Human

One-on-one meetings are frequently called check-ins because they involve, well, checking in. Your employees are creative, driven, smart, and agile – they’re not machines and you wouldn’t want them to be, so ask them how they are, encourage them, and incentivize them to stretch themselves. Getting the best out of any employee involves meeting them where they are. Some managers will share a win at the beginning of each meeting to start on a positive note. Others will use affirmations and share parts of themselves to show they care. Be all that you are and your team will respond in kind.

Some managers will share a win at the beginning of each meeting to start on a positive note.

Your First One-on-One Meeting with an Employee

You should have two goals for your first one-on-one: To establish what these meetings should accomplish and to find out what drives your employee. This is no mean feat! One-on-ones will frequently begin a little formal and stiff, but they will loosen up over time as both parties learn to trust each other and the process. Sometimes that means calling out the awkwardness and sharing your goals for future meetings. By finding out what motivates your team member at this stage, you can start using it immediately to set goals, expectations, and rewards.

What Do You Discuss in One-on-One Meetings?

In many organizations, the check-in document is open for both parties to log things they want to discuss as they come up. Professional check-in software CEO David Hassell recommends a more proactive approach: asking a few days out what the employee wants to discuss and what challenges they’re facing. Either way, it’s your responsibility as a manager to focus the meeting on the key things you need to discuss together. If you find your meetings are running over time, you might consider more frequent meetings or more structured ones.

Take notes that your employee can refer back to, but also take your own private notes to plot their progress over time and gauge them against your expectations.

One-on-One Meeting Structure

There are multiple formats for one-on-one meetings. Many sales managers have a laundry list to cover for every one-on-one. No matter what format you choose, make sure you’re consistent across your staff.

All one-on-one meetings should contain at least these two things:

  • Check-in – To find out how the employee thinks they’re doing, what challenges they’re facing, and what help they need.
  • Planning – Be clear about your expectations at the level that is most useful to them, and help them make a plan for success. Establish consequences for failure. Coming out of a one-on-one, your employee should have a clear idea of what they need to do and how to get there.

If you’re planning to cover professional development, some managers recommend you give the employee a heads up so they have time to prepare.

Whether you’re a new manager going into your first set of one-on-ones, or a seasoned boss looking for improvement tips, you can always improve your meeting practice by focusing on goals and asking yourself: How can I best support my employee to achieve the success I need them to achieve?