6 things that make my 1-on-1 meetings inspiring

How often do you have a truly inspiring 1-on-1 meeting with your leader? Unfortunately, our research shows that most people would say this rarely (or never) happens, which is unfortunate given how powerful this type of 1-on-1 can be. 

I look forward to 1-on-1 meetings with my leader, Jeff Smith, and thought it would be helpful to share my experience of regular development 1-on-1s and what makes them so meaningful. Whether you’re early in your career like me, the manager of a small team, or a senior executive, I hope this post inspires you to improve the way you have development 1-on-1s.

Here are the keys to a truly inspiring development 1-on-1 meeting.

We focus on ‘me’.

A development 1-on-1 is about the employee. These meetings are about helping people grow. My 1-on-1 meetings create the space to take an hour to truly, authentically focus on my human experience of work and my development journey. 

We avoid talking about tactics.

The first pitfall of many 1-on-1 meetings is that they start out focused on the employee but end up shifting to tactical issues and actions items. This immediately undermines the development 1-on-1. We save the tactics and action items for our other meetings in order for this conversation to remain focused on my development journey and my experience of work.

We set aside the time

Development 1-on-1s should happen every 2-4 weeks. It is important to establish a regular cadence for these conversations to not only ensure they happen, but also show your team that you genuinely care enough to set aside time to check-in with them.

There have often been times where my manager and I are both so absorbed in our work that the 1-on-1 could easily be cancelled. When Jeff and I put down other important work to focus on my experience and development it sends a powerful message about his genuine interest in my experience and commitment to support my development.

We are inspired by the bigger picture

Having the discipline to stick with the  1-on-1 schedule also helps to pull us out of the deep-end of our work and serves as a breath of fresh air. Going through our 1-on-1 template, I’ve always found that our starter question, “What were your wins since our last 1:1?” provides motivation to continue a project I’ve been struggling to finish. We then move on to “What progress have you made on your professional development goals?” This allows me to take a step back from the technical aspects of my work and look at the bigger picture of what I’m doing – how it fits into the organization’s goals and also contributes to my personal development goals

We embrace challenges

While we want to celebrate wins, we also want to uncover challenges that can affect our human experience of work. Questions we use that get to the heart of the problem start with:

  • “What are the top 2-3 challenges you are facing right now?”
  • “What is hard right now, and how can I help?”
  • “How is your engagement?”

We create space for personal challenges that affect work. It’s impossible to separate work from your personal life, especially with everyone working remotely these days. Experts may give advice about establishing a work-from-home routine or however many walks you go for to reduce your screen time. But it is impossible to split yourself into each of your identities as a marketing coordinator or roommate, based on the chair you’re sitting in. 

I was reminded of this during my last 1-on-1. When asked “What is hard right now?” I thought about the past week and how smooth all of our client workshops went. I responded that there was nothing, everything felt under control. But Jeff, having known that I have been dealing with a leak in my home for the past 3 months, questioned my response. He reminded me that just because it isn’t work related, it can still have an affect on my ability to focus, my performance, and overall well-being. His acknowledgement of the living situation I’m in was a gentle reminder that we are all carrying external factors into our working lives, which can make small things seem more challenging or cause us to feel less engaged.

We have a two-way conversation

While managers are expected to play more of a “listener” role during development 1-on-1s, they are called conversations for a reason. These meetings are also opportunities for both the manager and employee to provide feedback for one another. In every 1-on-1 conversation, Jeff and I take notes to record wins, challenges, and progress on development goals. If you download the SupportingLines development 1-on-1 template, you’ll find that there are two columns for every question on the agenda. While the employee shares their wins, challenges, and receives feedback, the manager is also able to share their affirmations or interpretations of said wins, challenges, and receive feedback from the employee as well. “Do you have any feedback for my development?” is a question for both the employee and manager to answer.

The power of a development 1-on-1

Every 2 weeks, Jeff and I meet for an hour to have a development 1-on-1. Although we may be overwhelmed with work, we give our undivided attention to these conversations which have proven to be meaningful in numerous ways. 

Development 1-on-1s are an essential part of helping people grow, and a huge contributor to having a positive human experience of work. If you are a team member like me and are planning on asking for a 1-on-1, I suggest you download our 1-on-1 template to share with your manager. If you are a team leader, I hope you find the time to sit down with your team and ask them how they are doing.

Tianna Tso

Tianna Tso

Tianna is the Marketing & Program Coordinator at SupportingLines and specializes in producing all of our online, visual, and written content.

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