March 8, 2018

CEO School: 1-1 Meetings

Weekly team meetings are vital to share information, make decisions, and align your team for strategy execution – but the subtleties of each individual’s particular needs cannot be fully addressed in a team meeting. In working with thousands of fast growth companies over the last sixteen years, we (at have noticed a key success discipline that great managers routinely practice. They schedule a regular weekly 1 on 1 meeting with each of their direct reports.

This 1 on 1 appointment is a brief meeting with a specific agenda. Random meetings (including casual conversations / coffees / brainstorming) that you may have with a team member during the week are all well and good, but they do not replace the consistently scheduled 1 on 1 meeting. That’s because the 1 on 1 meeting is where you are focused solely on that person and how you as a manager can best support them in the execution of their goals.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? But simple does not necessarily mean easy. Be honest. Do you have the discipline to conduct 1 on 1 meetings with your team members every week? Like many habits of success, this practice falls into the “important but not urgent” category. It takes real discipline to stick to a regular 1 on 1 meeting schedule, but the payoffs for both the manager and the team member are worth the effort. Try it for 12 weeks and see how much more you actually get done. Schedule it in both of your calendars and make it happen.
Let’s go over a proven agenda for running a successful 1 on 1 meeting:

1. Establish an agenda and time limit and stick to them. Keep the meeting brief and focused.
The 1 on 1 meeting should take no longer than 30 minutes. For example, if you have 7 direct reports, you should be able to meet with your whole team in one afternoon. Block out this time in your calendar and make sure you keep these appointments every week. Don’t blow them off. As a manager, your #1 task is to support your people. You succeed only when your team succeeds.

2. Both parties must come to the meeting prepared with the updated information you need to discuss the current reality.
Briefly discuss each project the individual is accountable for and get a status update. Is the staff member on schedule to have it completed by the due date? If not, why not? Briefly discuss each Key Performance Indicator the worker is accountable for and get a status update. The score doesn’t lie. Are the numbers where they need to be? If not, why not? This is not a blame session; rather it is a consultation to make sure both parties are fully aware of the current situation.

3. Ask the person what tangible action they will “complete” this week to move each goal forward (or address any issues that have been identified above).
Agree on the chosen action(s) and capture them in writing in your task management tool of choice. Be specific about each task that needs to be done and the due date for each task. Writing down each task clearly signals to the team member what is important to you, and it helps to focus their efforts on the right things each week.

4. Follow up to make sure each task gets checked off as done.
You get what you inspect. Holding people firmly accountable for honoring their commitments to you is crucial if you want to create a high performance culture. This is not micro-managing – you give the person the freedom and autonomy to go away and determine how best to achieve each task, but you definitely follow up each week to close the loop and make sure it got done.

5. Ask what support or resources they need from you to help them succeed?
As a manager, you need to put the right people together and clear the obstacles from their paths to enable the most important tasks to be completed. You also need to keep out of their way and not overwhelm them with too many demands or conflicting priorities. Shield them from distractions to create the time and space for the most important tasks to get done every week.

6. Ask if there are any other issues that they would like to raise?
How are they feeling? Are there any minor grievances that are bugging them? What’s going on in their life right now? Take a sincere interest in them and their life outside of work.

7. Share any issues or feelings you would like to raise.
Performance reviews are not an annual thing. Let your people know every week how they are performing both in terms of the data and what you have personally observed. Let them know that you are on their side. Demonstrate your commitment to helping them succeed.

8. Finish on a high note.
Find something they are doing well and acknowledge it. Praise is most effective if you commend the specific behaviors you want to see reinforced; for example, “I was impressed with the detailed research you did on this project and the long hours you put in to get the report done on time.”

Are you ready to try conducting weekly 1 on 1 meetings with each of your direct reports? I guarantee that if you make it happen, it will make you a better manager. It will enable both parties to understand each other better and stay focused on the important issues. And it will greatly improve your business execution success!