In those highlights, you are gonna start to see what is important to them. What do they really wanna be showcasing in those low lights in the places they're stuck. You're gonna really see where do they need support? Where can I better help them as a manager? Where do they maybe need coaching versus training versus something else?
This is going to be your window into how to best support your team.
Welcome to the Managing Made Simple podcast, where I bring a decade of experience working in some of the most influential companies in tech to help you navigate the ins and outs of being a people manager from conflicts to feedback, to delegating and more. We will leave no stone unturned when it comes to what makes us love managing, kind of hate it and everything in between.
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Welcome back to the show. Today we are talking about how to have effective one-on-ones. Or answering a question. Many managers have asked me before, what the hell am I supposed to talk about in a one-on-one with my team member?
Especially when the meeting often turns into a status update. They're just kinda walking through a spreadsheet or a task list, and the meeting wraps up and feel like, was that really useful? Well, spoiler alert, no, not really. When you just focus on status reports and things that frankly could have been in an email, it isn't really that useful.
So today we are going to end the curse of useless one-on-ones and talk about how to make them actually effective. First and foremost, I talked about this with the amazing Carrie Jacobs in episode 22. We always want to keep our one-on-ones with our team members for her program leading with empathy.
Carrie surveyed like 2000 or more employees asking them what set apart good managers from the bad ones and the number two most important thing. Was that your manager keeps your one-on-one time with you. They show up on time and they don't constantly move the meeting all around. And this was a shocker for folks in that training because it can seem like, well, a one-on-one's casual, it's no big deal.
Like why does it matter if you're, if you have to move it and reschedule it? Well, it matters because this might be the one time your team member gets to meet with you, ask a question. They might have been saving up all this stuff they wanted to share with you, wins they were excited to report on. And when you move it around, you show them, yeah, you're not really a priority.
And I will tell you, one of my biggest pet peeves with the managers I've had in the past was showing up late to it. I've had managers show up like nine or 10 minutes late into a 25 minute one-on-one and it sends a signal like, yeah, I don't really care about you that much. I am just kind of at this meeting now between all the other important things I had to do and like, let's quickly rush through the engine now since I was so late.
And I get that you're busy. Things come up and, and we're all busy. But when you send that message to your team member that you don't matter to me, I mean, think about how that just creates a spiral of disengagement, demotivation. You're not gonna get your best work outta that person, just being honest. So if you have to move something around, if you have a busy week coming up, and I've said this before on past episodes, Send the team an email saying, Hey, I have a lot of stuff going on this week.
I may have to shift things around. I wanted you to know that before we go into the week, or if I ping you last minute, please, please understand it is because it's kind of outta my control this week. Give them the setup, make sure they understand what's going on, and then they won't hold it against you.
Then you've been proactive and you've shown them, you matter to me. I'm not moving things around because I don't care. That little message goes a really long way, and that's like brass tacks before I even get to how to have an effective conversation, but I wanted to start with that because I want you to know how important it is to have one-on-ones to meet with your team regularly.
Again, this is the moment where you can build a relationship with team members, where you can get to know them, where you understand their goals and their aspirations so that you can really support their career growth. You can recognize great work where you understand are there any flags here? Is this person gonna start quiet, quitting, or do I have an engaged team member?
It is important to meet with team members. Don't have to meet with them every single week, whatever cadence works for you. But I would recommend for folks that report directly into you, at least meeting like twice a month. I think that's gonna be probably the minimum you want to, and if weekly makes sense.
Then, then go for that. If twice a month feels heavy handed, maybe it's a 15 minute check-in, but some kind of FaceTime is going to be important. All right. With that out of the way, let's talk about some fundamentals on how to have an effective one-on-one. First, you wanna have a shared agenda that both of you can add to.
Okay, you wanna make sure it's clear. This is a two-way street conversation. We both wanna be adding what's top of mind, what we wanna talk about. It's not up to the manager to fill the time of the one-on-one. And it's not just up to the team member. It should be two-way street. If it's in a shared document or you know, you put it in a Slack channel or however you communicate, you wanna have it in a place.
Both of you can add things that are top of mind. Now, before I cover what should be in that agenda, let's talk about what should not be. Frankly, I think project statuses should not necessarily be there because like I talked about in the start of this conversation, when we just jump into project status updates, things like that, we may not ever have time to actually dig into the meat.
We don't necessarily know where someone's getting stuck or where they need help. We can't really celebrate wins because they've just jumped right into like, okay, first I did this, then I did this, then I did this. I recommend actually moving all the status updates to an email that your team member sends you before the meeting so that you have awareness that you can ask any questions about anything, or if they've flagged any place, they are stuck, but then you remove all that status stuff.
Just kind of the quick rundown of the status. From the meeting. Okay, so this is officially permission to turn that meeting into an email and actually replace this meeting with something more useful. What do we talk about in the one-on-one first? I think it's really important to spend a few minutes building rapport, kind of talking about more casual things.
And this is not forcing your team member to be your friend or have conversation about their personal life if they don't want to, but it's spending a little bit of time before you jump right in saying, Hey, how's it going? Anything fun going on? Any, any vacations plan, anything exciting or whatever it is Because we want to show our team member that we're interested in them as a whole person.
We care about them. And frankly as you get to know them better and you're spending more time doing this, building rapport, you can ask about things. So you can say, Hey, how was that softball tournament you did last week? Or, how was that trip your your son took to Europe? You know, are they back yet?
Whatever. We really wanna be able to show our team members, we care about them. This starts to build trust and we have trust. They're more feeling more open to share when they're feeling stuck or need support, or they're more likely to want to stay on the team for the long haul. So it is really important to build rapport, and we can do that, you know, two, three minutes.
It doesn't have to be like half the meeting, but we do wanna make a little time for that. From there, I recommend sharing some highlights and some wins. Hey, starting the meeting off on a high with things that went well. Big or small. It doesn't have to be the product launched. It could be, Hey, I ran a really effective meeting or had a really great conversation with a client, or really, it was awesome.
This team member really helped me get through a problem and I, I just wanted to call that out. It was really, really nice. So we wanna start with wins so that we're, we're showing we're in a culture where we recognize wins, we celebrate things. You as the manager are looking for opportunities to amplify that win.
If someone shares a win, it's an awesome opportunity to say, Hey, that's awesome. Send me an email at that. I wanna make sure our VP is aware of that so that you are showing someone, you are actively looking out for opportunities to recognize that work. And that's also gonna go a really long way to build rapport.
Then we wanna talk about where they're stuck or could you support. Starting with that high and saying, okay, you know, I know not, and not everything's always great. What's something I could help you with? Notice I didn't ask a yes or no question. I'm really big on open-ended questions for this kind of thing, because if we ask our team member, Hey, anything you're stuck on, they might go, no, everything's fine.
And then you don't really get to the meat of it. But if you say, Hey, what's, what's one thing I could help you with? Or one thing that could be going better for you? Now they are really more empowered to think of something specific. And you could say, Hey, big or small doesn't have to be major, but what's one way I could better support you is showing that you are making feedback a two-way street.
You wanna make sure they're having a good experience and you're there to listen. Now, if you have a situation where your team member always says, everything's fine, they never need any help, they're never stuck, blah, blah, blah, it's always fine. This is a signal that they don't quite trust telling you what's actually going on.
And I don't mean to say that there's something wrong necessarily here, but it is an opportunity to make sure you're sharing them different ways you could support them. So I've seen this come up when you are a manager and you don't have the same technical skills as your team member. One time I was managing an engineer and I was a program manager, and at first, you know, he was like, well, what are you gonna help me with?
No, I I'm not gonna ask you for anything. And in our conversations I would say, Hey, you know, I know I don't have the same technical background as you, and I can't help you with this area, but here are the, some of the places that I can't offer support. I know that you wanna be a manager in the future and I'd love to support you in that aspect.
Or, you know, I, we are really working on your communication skills and that's a place I can really add value. I think it's totally fine to recognize the area that you can really help them develop and show them that, yeah, there's gonna be strengths that each of us have, but I can support you where you're stuck in some of these areas.
And again, that really goes a long way to build trust so that they do say, okay, yeah, I would love some help in that different area. And again, someone doesn't have to come with something every single time, but you do wanna leave the door open every single meeting to ask, what are some ways I can support you?
What are some places you're stuck? Where can I help? And with that said, we can wrap it up and land the plane. As any good little program manager will tell you, we wanna end that meeting with some actions, some next steps, whatever came out of wins, highlights, things that they need support on. Anything we talked about, talking about, okay, let's recap any actions.
What am I gonna take forward as the manager? What are you gonna take forward as a team member? When do we wanna come back together and talk about something? If there's an open issue, We always wanna make sure we are coming away, closing the loop as much as we can and assigning actions. Anything that is left unresolved in that meeting creates either another meeting or a bunch of stuff that doesn't get done, or a lot of open loops.
We wanna really, really land that with, okay, are we on the same page? Here's what we're gonna take forward. Here's what we're gonna come back to even talk about next week in our meeting. Maybe you dropped some things on the agenda for the following week. And then you're good to go along your merry way.
This is the structure that I have found really, really effective, and others I've worked with find really, really effective for having one-on-ones. Talk about a little bit of rapport building, share some highlights and some wins. Talk about where that person is stuck or needs support, and then close the loop with some actions.
And notice we didn't get into status. Okay? If there are things to cover, like places that are stuck that showed up in that status email, then we'll talk about those in, in that part of the meeting. But we did not spend 30 minutes going through a to-do list where we're just listening to someone saying, I finished this, I finished this, I finished this.
And you lose that whole opportunity to really get to know the person because in those highlights, you are gonna start to see what is important to them, what do they really wanna be showcasing? In those low lights in the places they're stuck, you're gonna really see where do they need support? Where can I better help them?
As a manager, where do they maybe need coaching versus training versus something else. This is going to be your window into how to best support your team, provided you spend the time in the right way. Give it a try. I always love to hear from you. Use this formula, send me an email. Let me know what you think, and cheers to collectively having better and more useful one-on-ones that we don't reschedule and show up late for.
All right, let's do this. See you next time. That's all I have for today. Thank you so much for tuning in to the Managing Made Simple Podcast where my goal is to demystify the job of people management so that together we can make the workplace somewhere everyone can thrive. I always love to hear from you, so please reach out at liagarvin.com or message me on LinkedIn.
See you next time.