Weekly 1 on 1 Meetings

Working with hundreds of fast-growth companies over the last 2 decades, I have noticed a key success discipline that top-performing managers routinely practice. They schedule a regular weekly 1 on 1 meeting with each of their direct reports.

Weekly team meetings are vital to share information, get feedback, make decisions, and align your team for business execution, but the subtleties of each individual’s particular needs cannot be fully addressed in a team meeting.

The 1 on 1 meeting is a brief appointment with a specific agenda. Random meetings (casual conversations, coffees, brainstorming) that you have with a team member during the week do not replace the recurring, diarized 1 on 1 meeting.

The Benefits of 1 on 1 meetings:

  • Creates a regular discipline of giving and receiving feedback
  • Identify and resolve issues before they become serious
  • Increases trust and understanding
  • Provides clarity and focus
  • Builds relationship
  • Shows that you care

This is a meeting where you are focused solely on coaching and supporting that person to achieve their goals. It sounds simple, but simple does not mean easy. 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 employee are worth the time and effort. Schedule it in both of your calendars, make it happen, and watch how much more you and your team actually get done.

Book a 30-minute recurring weekly appointment

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 each person’s calendar and keep these appointments every week. Make it a rule, not a choice. Don’t let anyone postpone them because they get busy. Set a standard of meeting 9 weeks out of every 10.

Remember my definition of the manager’s role: “Increase the output of the team. Spend most of your time performing tasks that only someone in the manager’s role can do.” 

This is the most important use of your time every week. Your #1 task is to coach and support your people. The 1 on 1 meeting is where you “do the work” of being a manager. 

Here is my sample agenda for running a successful 1 on 1 meeting:

1. Review Goals and Tasks

Both parties must come to the meeting fully prepared, with dashboards updated, and information on hand to discuss current issues.

You get what you inspect. I have a saying. “Successful Business Execution is 20% getting clear about what needs to be done, and 80% following up to make sure it actually gets done”.

Briefly discuss each Project or Task and get a status update. Are they on schedule to be completed, as scoped, by the due date? If not, why not? Drill down on any overdue Tasks. This is not micromanaging – you give the person the freedom and autonomy to determine how to achieve each task, but you follow up each week to close the loop and make sure they get done. Where appropriate, renegotiate due dates and get a firm commitment. 

Check-in with the person’s Metrics (Key Performance Indicators). Are the numbers “in the green“? If not, why not?

This is not a blame session. It is a consultation to make sure both parties are fully aware of the current reality.

2. Weed the garden

Letting people off the hook without discussing poor performance is like letting weeds grow in your garden. If you don’t pull the weeds out quickly, the weeds will quickly take over your garden and choke the growth of your crops. Weeds aren’t going to remove themselves, but they are much easier to deal with when they are still small and there aren’t too many. Below-standard performance isn’t going to fix itself either, but problems are much easier to fix if you nip them in the bud when you first observe them; before it becomes the norm.

If Projects and Tasks are not getting done on time, or agreed Metrics (KPI) performance standards are not being achieved, you need to weed the garden. This article explains how to hold people accountable.

3. The One Thing

Ask, “What is “the one thing”, the most important task that can be completed this week to move this Goal forward?”

Document the tangible action(s) they will complete in the coming 7 days to move each goal forward (or address any performance shortfalls that have been identified). Writing down each task clearly signals what is important to you, and it helps to focus their efforts on the right things each week.

4. What support do you need?

Connect them with the people and resources they need. Clear obstacles from their path. You also need to keep out of their way and not overwhelm them with too many demands or conflicting priorities. Shield your people from distractions to allow the time and space for them to nail their “One Thing” every week.

5. Prioritize tasks and due date commitments

If the person has a lot of tasks, help them to prioritize their work. Adjust the deadlines to make sure they are achievable, and get a firm commitment on these due dates

6. How are you feeling?

Show a sincere interest in their feelings and their interests. Let people know that you are on their side. Demonstrate your commitment to helping them succeed. Prompt them with questions like: How are you feeling? Any other issues you want to discuss? Is anything bugging you right now? What’s making your job hard right now? What responsibilities would you like to take on to further your career? What are you interested in learning? What else is going on in your world?  

Also probe for feedback about your performance as a manager with questions like: How can I support you better? What would you like me to do more of? Less of? What can I do to help you be more effective in your role?

7. Share other issues you want to discuss (“clearing conversations”).

If they have any performance or behavioral issues that are bothering you,  this is where you talk about them. Don’t let issues fester. Let people know every week where they stand, what they need to do to improve, and how they can make progress in their career

Performance reviews are not an annual thing. Let people know every week how they are performing in terms of their results and their behaviors. For example, if someone is behaving contrary to the spirit of your organization’s Core Values, you need to discuss how their actions affect other people. 

8. Finish with praise and encouragement.

Finish on a high note. Find something they are doing well and acknowledge it. This article explains how to praise people the right way.

In simple terms, if we praise a person’s ability, they can develop a “fixed mindset” which discourages learning and makes people fear failure. This can hinder their success in life. A superior approach is to praise the effort that led to the outcome. This helps people develop a “growth mindset” which encourages learning and builds resilience to failure.

  • Incorrect: “You are really smart”
  • Better: “Well done for sticking at the problem until you solved it”
  • Incorrect: “You always deliver”
  • Better: “Thanks for running a tight process to get the project done on time”
  • Incorrect: “You’re a good cultural fit”
  • Better: “I like how you handled that upset customer. It was a good example of our ‘support our customers to be successful’ core value.”

Are you ready to be a better manager?

I can almost guarantee that if you conduct a weekly 1 on 1 meeting with your direct reports in a disciplined manner (as described above), it will force you to be a better manager. It will enable both parties to understand each other better and keep everyone focused on what is important.

Feel like a bit of variety?  Try walking 1 on 1 meetings


Until next time…