I have had very few one on one meetings with managers that I felt were really useful. I only started having 1:1 meetings when I joined Fido. And so seeing no other working model, I started to believe that they were useless. I just finished the Ben Horowitz book The Hard Thing About Hard Things and I have revised my thinking. The one on one is critical to my notion of making the company a family; you have to keep open lines of communication. A 1:1 forces two people to stay in contact. I would also include structure to the meeting so that we cover certain things essential to the personal side of the relationship. I still believe that the subordinate owns the meeting and is responsible for its success, but structure is always good.
Here are the components of my ideal 1:1 meeting…
- Greet each other and shake hands. One of my favorite Supreme Court traditions is that whenever they sit for cases, each justice greets each other with a handshake first. The simple acknowledgment of respecting the other person in a two-way partnership, is profound.
- Family and what is happening with your life – A manager can’t help you be successful in work as part of your family, if she doesn’t know what else is going on with your family. This should go both ways. Sharing is caring.
- Status update. This is bottom up. All-Hands meetings are meant for top-down communication. Only discuss items that are problematic and need to be discussed in confidence. A good manager should be ‘on the floor’ and tuned into the general state of affairs.
- Progress on goals – Detail from a big picture how you see your progress on goals and learn how that impacts your manager’s progress on their goals.
- Criticism of manager – A manager should ask direct questions; How am I keeping you from being successful? I am hearing these ‘rumors’… what do you think? How should I fix things? The employee should feel empowered to give direct, critical and actionable feedback.
- Culture – Employees are living in the culture that management fosters. There should be frank conversation about how things ‘feel’ vis-à-vis the intended tone of the organization. Is the behavior of leadership affecting the business and the workplace? How can it be improved? Can leadership and staff form a better partnership?
- Feedback on employee’s performance – This should always be ongoing and candid. Detail how the employee needs to improve. What is the perception of their Effort level.
- Future – What should the employee be doing to meet goals, set new goals and succeed with the company. Is their career progressing as desired? Is the company and your role moving in the same direction of your goals? How could we shift that?
- What can we both do better over the next week. Both parties agree on 2 objectives and EXECUTE
Obviously this is more content than 30 minutes per week. I would block an hour and just use whatever is necessary. Even if the content is “no update” it gives people an opportunity to check in and reconnect.
Two people cannot be productive if they are not connected in a way that makes them more effective as a team. The goal is that the team dynamic enables you to be more productive than the sum of your parts. I remember how Tom Brady and Deion Branch used to talk about how they could read each other’s intent based on a look or a nod. Great teams don’t just happen, you have to cultivate them. At the base of it, a team is a collection of one on one relationships. You don’t have to follow this outline, but be sure to connect to that person one on one.