Getting the Most from Your One-on-One Conversations: 6 Tips for Managers and Team Members

Manager One on One DiscussionA survey conducted by Training magazine and The Ken Blanchard Companies found that 89 percent of those polled want to meet with their manager at least monthly, and 44 percent want to meet weekly.

The majority of respondents are looking for either 30 or 60 minutes of one-on-one time with their manager on a regular basis.

The survey also identified six specific topics that direct reports want more discussion around in their one-on-ones:

  • Goal setting
  • Goal review
  • Performance feedback
  • Problem solving
  • Soliciting support
  • Problems with colleagues

Of these, the topic that is most often neglected is Problems with colleagues. An astounding 64 percent of respondents wish they could talk with their manager about problems with colleagues either “often” or “all the time,” but only 8 percent actually do.

Problems with Colleagues Stats

Tips to get the most from your one-on-one

For the direct report:

  • Update your manager on what has happened since your last meeting. Share progress against goals and follow up on action items from earlier meetings.
  • Ask for what you need. Be open regarding any need for direction and support.
  • Use the time for problem solving. Share obstacles you are facing and work with your manager to develop action plans.

For the manager:

  • Use the time to listen. Listen to understand and advise only when needed.
  • Give specific, meaningful praise. Look for opportunities to not only praise results but also praise progress on newer tasks.
  • Redirect as needed. Help the direct report recognize possible gaps in performance and redirect their path.

Important note for managers

Do not cancel a one-on-one meeting with a direct report. Postpone it if necessary, but do not cancel. In our Situational Self Leadership workshop, I always ask participants how it makes them feel when their manager cancels a one-on-one meeting. Overwhelmingly, they say “It makes me feel as if I’m not important.” Note that they don’t say “it’s not important”—they say “I’m not important.”

What do you do to get the most from your one-on-one discussions?


About the author

John Hester is a senior consulting partner with The Ken Blanchard Companies who specializes in productivity and performance management.


8 thoughts on “Getting the Most from Your One-on-One Conversations: 6 Tips for Managers and Team Members

  1. We encourage our managers to ask their direct reports ‘what do I need to stop, start and/or continue doing to make you more successful?’ and then be ready to really listen, take notes and respond. This communicates a managers openness and receptivity to input and feedback. Very important in developing strong working relationships to ask, listen and then act.

  2. Hello John, thanks for sharing this! I truly appreciate my one:ones with my manager! What I do to get the most from my one:ones is bring my one:one worksheet and throughout the meeting I jot the things I need to do, research or complete in the “next step” section to help me stay on track of the task, it also helps me to prepare my workload for the following weeks. After the one:one, I take that sheet and put task reminders in my outlook calendar to make sure I allot the time that I need to work on the “next step(s)” for the goal, task, or project. The worksheet really is a great tool!

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