The advantages of regular one-on-ones with your team

TL:DR

As a manager, having regularly scheduled times to speak one on one with your team members about non-work-related things can benefit the manager, the team member, and the team considerably.

Photo by Tim Douglas from Pexels

This thought has not occurred to me alone, and there are probably many sources. In my head, I trace it to a podcast where the interviewee mentioned it. If someone knows the podcast I am talking about; please reach out. I want to read the interviewee’s book.

All this to say, the idea of a regular one-on-one meeting with my teammates stuck with me, and after six monthly one-on-one, I can say I am glad to have started them, both for the team and for me!

Definition

Let’s start by defining what constitutes a one-on-one in our context:

“A conversation in a relaxed atmosphere where the focus is on the personal well-being of the team member and not on work-related topics.”

It should not be:

  • rigid, the idea here is to let people express themselves.
  • focused on the manager
  • a performance review
  • a moment to catch up on work to be done

Benefits

I genuinely believe both managers, team members, and the team as a whole will see benefits from these regular one-on-ones.

For the team member, the benefits stem from the fact that he is being listened to.

It is hard during the day’s craziness to reflect and express how work makes you feel and how it affects your well-being.

These one-on-ones provide the setting to discuss both what is and is not working in the workplace or if you might be going through a rough patch and might have trouble performing for the next couple of days.

For the manager, the benefits come from the fact that they will better gauge the team’s current state of mind, allowing them to react quickly to things slipping out of control.

It will also create an environment where team members will feel more comfortable coming to you, even outside of these one-on-ones, to discuss issues that might arise.

The team’s benefits come from that people feeling more valued and listened to; this will, in turn, lift the team spirit.

As a bonus, as people usually do not leave companies but leave teams (read bosses), it will help ensure that the team has a more stable configuration.

Cost

The only apparent costs I can see are time and energy. Depending on how big your team is, spending half an hour with each person will take time, and doing them all the same day can become quite draining in terms of energy.

To balance these costs, I believe you should stay within a limit of five one-on-ones per day, which will take you to about 2,5h of meetings. I like to have them on the last Thursday of every month, but our team is small (four members). If you are part of a big team, you could do it by cohorts and reserve one day a week for these meetings.

Make it a success

To make these meetings a success, you should strive to focus on your team members. It should be about them, not the company, the work, your relationship but them.

It would be best if you strived to keep it work-free, but work will naturally pop into de conversation. If it does, listen to your team member, acknowledge what he is sharing and react if you need to address something. Then, guide the conversation out of the office talk without being too forceful.

Lastly, you should always give them the option to share, but do not pry or push them to tell you things they do not wish to. I think it goes without saying, but you must make sure that what you share in these meetings is confidential, take into consideration what is your teammate shares with you, but do it up the hierarchy unless your teammate agrees!

Afterword

I will have made many mistakes in my short career as a manager, but starting monthly one-on-ones is probably the best decision I have made.

Thanks for reading. Have you tried this or something similar? how did it go for you? And if someone remembers the podcast, please please tell me!

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Pablo Curell Mompo

Pablo Curell Mompo

Full Stack developer @ Seraphin, learned how to code @ Le Wagon. I love coding and plan to keep learning as much as I can about it :)