3 Key Steps to a Great 1:1

In many companies, managers meet regularly with their team members in what is called a 1:1. Over time, these meetings become the norm; it’s on the calendar and the meetings happen, but many managers report that they don’t really know how to structure those meetings so that they’re helpful for them, as the manager, and to their direct reports.

In many ways, these 1:1 meetings are mini-planning sessions.

You’re coming together to identify a vision for the work you’re doing, to identify any obstacles that may challenge your success, and to create a plan for getting around the obstacles to achieve success.

We’ve found that the very structure that we use to help organizations do their strategic planning is a powerful structure for 1:1 meetings.

If your 1:1s could benefit from a new approach on focusing the efforts of your team, here are some pointers for how to introduce this idea and how to run your future 1:1s.

Making the transition to this framework can be as simple as starting to talk about what you’re focusing on going forward, then going through the steps, or you may want to say something like:

“We’re going to structure our meetings somewhat differently going forward and then we’ll assess if it’s helpful. As you know this is our company’s strategic plan/vision/focus (review the plan) and these are the things that our department needs to do to bring it to life (review those).

If we’re going to be successful, we need to be certain that our day-to-day activities line up behind these efforts so that individually you succeed, as a department we succeed, and the organization thrives.

So, let’s start each meeting with a review of the things we agreed to at the last meeting, and in addition we’ll:

  • Review your focus for the upcoming days, weeks and month
  • Identify the things that are in your way and where you may need my help or other resources to succeed
  • Discuss your plan for moving forward so we can have a shared agreement about your next steps and any ways I need to be involved

Do you have any questions or concerns?”

You can use your own language, but be sure to lay it out for them so that they understand where you’re heading and why.

Again, here are the 3 key steps to a great 1:1:

  • Ask about their vision for what they want to achieve within a specific time frame.
    • When you’re managing effectively, you and your team member need to have a shared understanding of the work they’re focusing on to be certain that it’s aligned behind the company’s and departmental visions.
    • You may talk about this as a “vision” but in 1:1s you’re more likely to talk about what they have on their plate, their focus, or their goals for the upcoming week, month, quarter, etc..
  • Once you have an agreement about where they’re focusing their efforts, ask them to review with you the challenges and obstacles they believe could get in the way of getting this work done effectively.
    • In knowing the challenges and obstacles you and your team-member are looking at, you’ll be able to make a realistic effort to create success and identify support and resources they’ll need to be effective.
  • Finally, explore ways they’re thinking about getting around the obstacles to create success and then support them in creating an approach that has the highest chance of succeeding.
    • Wrapping up the meeting with a plan, timeline, accountabilities, etc. creates a shared plan that you can follow up on in starting your next meeting as you talk about their upcoming days, weeks, and months.

Using this structure – and teaching your direct reports to use it with their team members – powerfully increases your department’s focus and the focus among the members of your team.

Do you struggle to create effective 1:1s with your direct reports or employees? Contact us today. We’re here to help you find new ways to focus yourself and your team.

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  • Linda Carpenter, Stephanie Smith

    Carpenter Smith Consulting

    Linda Carpenter and Stephanie Smith started Carpenter Smith Consulting in Portland to support individuals and teams who dream about having the power, impact and influence to create success and meaning in ... Read full profile
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