The dos and don’ts of effective one-on-one meetings

Avoid being like Joe by ensuring an effective one-on-one meeting strategy to help improve employee relations, retain workers and boost your bottom line.

Avoid being like Joe by ensuring an effective one-on-one meeting strategy to help improve employee relations, retain workers and boost your bottom line.

By Phil Stella

One-on-one meetings between management and staff should be a regular component of any organization’s performance management system. They allow for maintaining professional relationships and providing constructing “Plus/Delta” feedback. 

In this case, a plus is an employee’s specific task, accomplishment or behavior that is considered to be working well and adding value. These are items that should be continued or even expanded. 

A delta is not something negative, but rather a specific change in activity or methods that will improve results. Sometimes, the needed change is to either do less of something that isn’t working or stop it completely. And sometimes the required change is to do more of something that would work better.

>> RELATED: Planning effective meetings

When done right, these meetings can provide a lot of value to your business. But what exactly does “done right” mean? Check out the following dos and don’ts of one-on-one meetings.

Do: Keep the meeting short and concise. Nothing is more insulting to an employee than when they feel like their time has been wasted, so try to keep the meetings as brief as possible.

Do: Make the meeting personable. While you do want to be respectful of everyone’s time, make sure to take a few minutes to check in on a personal level, as well as professional.

Do: Schedule these meetings frequently. If your one-on-one meetings are more of a one-off thing, set a regular schedule for meeting frequently. Not having meetings often enough can resort to ram-bling one-way data-dumps on a long list of topics instead of a focused conversation.

Do: Ensure the meetings are constructive. It can help to structure meetings so that they fall into three categories:
1. Comprehensive. These meetings should focus on reviewing specific performance over the last week or month, depending on the frequency.
2. Project specific. Create and review a list of the plusses and deltas of a specific project or process.
3. Issue specific. Try to focus on a specific problem that needs to be resolved immediately, when applicable. 

Do: Include effective communications. Distribute a detailed agenda prior to the meeting, and then follow up with a concise summary of points discussed, action items and next steps.

Do: Make it mandatory. This one-on-one meeting strategy should be organization-wide at all levels throughout your business.

Do: Evaluate the effectiveness. Create a process for team members to evaluate the quality of the meetings run by their managers.

Don’t: Do too much talking. When you’re running a meeting, don’t control the conversation. Make sure you spend enough time listening to employees. 

Don’t: Make commands. Instead of always “telling,” ensure you are also doing enough “asking” (and, again, then listening to responses).

>> RELATED: Steps to becoming a power listener

Don’t: Assume you know more. Chances are that your employees are closest to the problem than you are. Allow them to play a vital role in coming up with the solution. 

Don’t: Criticize ideas. When brainstorming, be open and receptive to all ideas. Doing so well encourage the generation of varying ideas in a non-judgmental process

The negative effects of poor one-on-ones include failing to accomplish the initial objectives, wasting time and demotivating employees.

Meet Joe and Maria

Consider an example of when Joe the supervisor met with Maria the production analyst about problems with a new manufacturing process. He should have led a dynamic and creative dialogue to explore possible causes, analyzed each different solution and selected the best one. But instead, he shared his thoughts first, barely listened to Maria’s comments, told her how to solve the problem and then blamed her for any negative outcomes. 

Maria got angry, quit and took a different job where her new boss wasn’t such an idiot. Score: Joe – zero, Maria – won.

So, if you manage people, embrace the value of effective one-on-one conversations with each person. Strive for effective, efficient and engaging dialogues and avoid being anything like Joe.

Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication,, 440 804-4785, and empowers business leaders to re-duce the pain with workplace communication and sales pitches A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, communication styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.   


On Key

Related Posts

Sustainability for Busine$$ with Laura Steinbrink

On the third episode of Sustainability For Busine$$, COSE Executive Director Megan Kim sits down with Managing Member of Emerald Built Environments, Laura Steinbrink, to share the funding opportunities available

Sustainability for Busine$$ with Andrew Watterson

On the second episode of COSE’s Sustainability for Busine$$, where we delve into the dynamic world of corporate responsibility and sustainable business practices, we are excited to welcome Andrew Watterson,

Sustainability for Busine$$ with Victoria Avi

Welcome to “Sustainability for Busine$$,” the podcast where we dive deep into the world of sustainable practices and their implications for small business owners.  In this inaugural episode, we are