Berger Leadership Blog

Categories: Leadership

How to get the most value out of 1-on-1s

Dan BergerWe've been working in a strange environment the past year. For many of us, we've moved our offices fully remote and are just now starting to plan what a return to the office looks like.

We adapted quickly. We've spent countless hours on video meetings. It wouldn't surprise me if some of our culture and team relationships have changed as a result. But I'm here to remind you that the time you spend talking with your team is invaluable. So, if your discussions have changed – and potentially become less effective – leadership guru Art Petty has seven ways for you to get more value out of your one-on-one meetings.

  1. Reframe (together) the purpose of your one-on-ones: These meetings should be held for more reasons than checking a box. Create a space to actually explore how it's going. What challenges need to be addressed and what are possible solutions? Where does your employee feel like they're excelling? How could they be doing more of what they love? Where could you provide more support? Spending time to talk through more than just the day-to-day will be more valuable to you, your employee, and the organization.
  2. Tailor timing and frequency to meet their needs: Yes, you as a leader are busy, but so is your team. Some people are morning people and like to get as much off their to-do list as possible before lunch. A morning meeting might be disruptive. Others build momentum throughout the day and an end-of-day talk could add stress. Determine a time that fits both of your needs, as well as how often they're needed.
  3. Beware the gravitational pull of status updates: Time is valuable. Does getting status updates on projects/next steps really require a meeting? Consider what can be covered by an email, and what conversations are better done in-person (or via phone or video if you're remote). Employees will feel more comfortable opening up to broader discussions if the meeting is less micromanagement, and more partnership.
  4. Set the tone for creativity from the start: Think about how you typically start conversations with your team. What types of responses does that elicit? Find ways to open dialogue that prompt ideas and innovation, not shut them down.
  5. Share and create context in one-on-ones: We perform better when we see the purpose behind our responsibilities. We also perform better when we feel loyalty and trust to the organization, our team, and our leaders. For leaders, helping employees see how their tasks level up to support the broader mission, or sharing new opportunities – and even challenges – will establish much stronger connections and value.
  6. Rotate responsibility for leading the sessions: Giving your employee the chance to lead the discussion is a win for both of you. They get to practice some leadership skills and you get to see what's important for them to discuss.
  7. Don't be afraid to free-form your one-on-ones: Structure is great, but it can be easy to fall into a rut doing the same thing over and over. If you're able, change up the location of your meeting. Have it over lunch. Grab some coffee and take a walk. A change in scenery alone can spur new ideas and get you thinking about things bigger than the confines of your office.

The ultimate goal of one-on-ones should be to help your employees grow and build stronger relationships. Be sure to give it the time and attention it deserves.

Follow me on Twitter (@BDanBerger)

About the Author

B. Dan Berger, President and CEO, NAFCU

Dan BergerB. Dan Berger first joined NAFCU in 2006 and helped turn the association into the premiere advocate for the credit union industry. Since becoming president and CEO in 2013, Berger, who is also an author, economist, and one of Washington's top lobbyists, is credited with bringing national attention to key policy issues, while ensuring NAFCU's members meet policymakers at the highest levels of government.

Read full bio