I’m often asked what it means to be an outstanding manager. Most of us have been managed at some point and we all remember the tremendous and (unfortunately) the terrible manager! In my mind, what makes a manager outstanding essentially comes down to building trust, confidence and rapport with your team.

Listening, sharing valuable feedback, and giving praise are some of the key ingredients in the outstanding manager mix. The one-to-one meeting is a key part of this. That focused time – whether in person or online – is the ideal forum for both parties to focus, learn and problem solve. In this blog I share my top five tips for one-to-one meetings:

  1. Create a routine

Plan three months in advance and schedule the third meeting at the end of every one-to-one, that way the team member always has three dates in their diary. Whether held weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or at a different interval, if possible keep to the same time and place to create a routine.

  1. Don’t cancel!

This is an investment in time between line managers and team members; often the only structured opportunity to talk. When you cancel one-to-ones, your team members notice more than just the calendar appointment disappearing from their schedule. It’s like saying: “I don’t see these meetings (or you) as that important.” It may appear that scheduling the one-to-one was just a tick-box exercise. If an unexpected event occurs, explain the reason and quickly reschedule.

Management is, above all, a practice where art, science, and craft meet.

Henry Mintzberg
  1. Push back: demonstrate the importance of the one-to-one

Developing your team should be your focus, and it’s important to recognise this takes discipline and a consistent approach. You should place a premium on the time you invest. So, when requests inevitably come from above that conflict with scheduled one-to-ones, it’s important to push back: “Is it possible to do this another time, as it’s really important to me that I meet my commitment to one-to-one meetings with my team members and I already have meetings scheduled at that time.”

You could even invite your own line manager to sit in for all or some of the meetings, illustrating the importance of the process to senior managers and allowing team members a window into the world of their manager’s manager! The best managers coach upwards, demonstrating their commitment to one-to-ones. Do everything in your power to only reschedule in exceptional circumstances, always apologising and explaining why.

  1. Get personal

We need to allow people to bring their whole self to work, so noting down any personal non-work events – such as a family celebration or highly anticipated event – shows a real sense of interest and empathy. Use this information to build rapport by enquiring during the next conversation to show you were listening then and care now! In this article, Dear Managers: Here’s how to get your team to do their best work, Laura Garnett says: “To be a manager who inspires the best work in your people, you must be interested in those people themselves. You have to take the time to understand who they are, and you need to model what you’re asking of them. You can’t just talk; you need to walk your talk.”

  1. Recap to reinforce

Ask the team member to summarise discussion points and action items. Doing this immediately identifies if the team member has understood what needs to be done, and by when, and ensures nothing is missed. Why wait until next month to discover something has been forgotten or misunderstood? Encourage team members to take notes and allow time for this during the meeting: “shall we pause to give you chance to capture that point?”

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t take own notes as well; you most certainly should! This just ensures nothing important is forgotten.

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Better one-to-ones. Better Results.

If you’d like to know more about this topic, please subscribe to download our guide to powerful and effective one-to-one meetings: Better one-to-ones. Better Results. It will help you transform a transactional, box-ticking one-to-one meeting into a constructive dialogue.