Making one-on-ones less related to day-to-day work.
6 December, 2017
When I first started in management, I did not understand the purpose of one-on-ones. Are we talking about work or about the person? At the time, I figured I needed to chat about stuff with my direct reports multiple times a week. In order not to disturb my reports all the time, I would write things down in a spreadsheet and schedule a meeting, and would then give them all of my comments and my feedback gathered in the week in one conversation. This approach was more "if we have time, let's talk about your career plan" and I would avoid conversations about personal matters most of the time. I would almost never add personal growth or personal life issues to my list of things to talk to my reports about. Because of this, my reports would sometimes get irritated, and would ask questions such as "Why didn't I get the promotion?" or "How did he get promoted?".
I kept on believing that meetings to go over work-related matters were important, so I kept them and tried to blend the two together. I tried talking to my reports for 30 minutes about work related issues, and then for 30 minutes about more personal matters. But this did not work out that well, as we'd end up talking for too long about work issues, or we would rush through the personal part "How do you feel? Good. OK, let's talk about work stuff". However, a good split between work-related meetings and meetings about personal growth and life outside of work (i.e. one-on-ones) is important to get the most out of your employees. It helps to change the setting of one-on-ones and to take employees out of the office. This helps to change dynamics and lets people open up. The change in setting also helps to ensure you don't just discuss day-to-day work-related matters.
One-on-ones are not a status update. Ultimately, they are a way to get a sense of where your employees are at with the company. They let you know if they're happy, sad, frustrated or even if they're about to leave.
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