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Effective One on One Meetings: 15 Common Mistakes to Avoid

These 15 uber-common mistakes during one on one meetings dampening manager's relations with subordinates. Easy to follow tips to avoid them.
Sabahet Amjad

Sabahet Amjad

One-on-one meting between manager and employee

 

The rules of management are changing. From in-house desk replaced with one-on-one meeting software.

One on one meeting is a perfect way to let your team members know they matter and their opinion is valued.

And it’s a new experience for every manager, mistakes are inevitable. But for business every mistake comes with a price… 

  • Reducing productivity
  • Unclear communication
  • Depleting trust with the direct reports.  

Hence, we have listed the common one on one meeting mistakes. And how to avoid them without burning your bank.

What is a One on One meeting?

A one on one meeting is a recurring meeting between the managers and their individual team members.

The team members can openly discuss personal goals, roadblocks to their achievements, and both can understand each other’s style of working and vent out their frustration, if need be.

 

One-on-One Meeting

The goal of one on one discussions is to understand the human behind your resource.

With one on one meetings, you must be able to learn what makes your talent tick, what role or duty fits an individual and what can make him/her grow in their career.

The ultimate purpose of one on one meetings is to mentor your team members in a way that your collective goal is attained with their best foot forward.

 

Effective One on One Meetings

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One on one meeting Mistakes (& Pro Tips)

 

1Keeping it strictly professional 

The difference between a manager and a leader lies in an individual’s capability to connect with people and motivate them to be their best versions.

 

If your conversations revolve only around the projects, you may lose out the opportunity to connect with your team.

A one-on-one meeting provides the manager an opportunity to become a leader for his/her team members. To engage with direct reports and motivate them to be their best versions.

A report by Harvard states that Emotional Intelligence plays an important role in management development.

Emotional connect helps you understand the factors that motivate an individual towards better productivity & empathizing better with your team.

PRO Tip: In your next one-on-one meeting, steer your conversation a little personal and ask your team about their life, dreams and aspirations.

2Confusing a status update meeting with one on one meeting

It is a common mistake for a manager to confuse a one-on-one meeting with a status update meeting.

Status update meaning report discussion, growth chart, and project-progress. This can be communicated via e-mail solely. Using One on One meetings for such status updates, manager can never build required trust.

 

Virtual meeting brings exclusive opportunity to discuss more than just facts and figures and get to connect with them at a deeper level.

 

PRO Tip: You can discuss about the challenges your team may be facing, gauge their comfort level with other team members and steps required to improve it. Furthermore, talk about employee’s future goals and how their present role can help in achieving it.

3Being distracted during the meeting

When coming to a one-on-one meeting, your employee expects your undivided attention during the meeting.

Peeping into the phone or going e-mails while taking the meeting will put your team’s motivation subjugated.

Active Listening is important in one on one remote meeting

PRO TIP: As a manager you’ve to show that you care. Engage with employees’ thoughts, be an active listener, and maintain a steady eye contact. Set your status as ‘DND’ and eliminate any sort-of interruption during a the meeting.

Fun FactResearch proves that active listening helps in bonding better and improving the skills of the employees.

One-on-one meeting software

Build a culture of effective & actionable 1:1s by helping your managers and their direct reports to collaborate on talking points, exchange feedback and track action items.


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4Never following up 

Imagine… you instructed the direct report to maintain an everyday to-do list to improve productivity.

Or, you may ask them to meet a senior team member, who could guide them in a certain scenario.

 

In such a case, it’s important to follow-up with your direct reports.

PRO TIP: Remembering your conversation and keeping a track of it proves that you’re involved in their progress and well-being. This simple act of remembering your conversation enhances your relationship with your subordinate. Making the subordinate committed and dedicated to self-improvement, and thereby, in their work. 

5Starting without an agenda

Not Setting Agenda Before Remote One on One Meeting

We understand that the idea of conversation is to go beyond the professional dilemmas but not having a proper agenda is just going to dampen the quality of conversation.

When you go to a one-on-one meeting unprepared, you end up wasting a lot of time on unnecessary small talk.

Setting an agenda beforehand will streamline the communication. Hence, saving time for both manager and your direct reports.  Furthermore, your remote meeting gets systematic… reducing the anxiety.

PRO TIP: Always prepare a list of concerned questions so you never lose the conversation-track in the middle. Moreover, let the employee know about the agenda beforehand; and seek feedback like what more they’d like to discuss.

6Rushing through the meeting

Rushing through the meeting, screams to the employee that the conversation is just a formality.

A subordinate anticipates this meeting and prepares for it beforehand. If you show that this meeting is organized in a rushed manner, they get demotivated.

 

Be patient and don’t rush though the meeting.

PRO TIP: Be punctual. And set out specific time for it so you can manage your day efficiently. 

7Restricting the meeting to your cubicle or office

A conversation in your office tends to get formal in its tone, hindering the communication flow. Thus, restrict yourself to arrange meeting in-desk.

A key purpose of 1:1 meetings is to know your colleagues better and build rapport. Hence, its eminent the conversation flow is a little informal or friendly.

So common question managers ask is where should you have one on one meetings….

PRO TIP: Office cafeteria or take a walk in the campus. You will notice that you won’t have to make extra efforts to become friendly and build a conversation. 

8Dominating the discussion

The whole point of a 1-on-1 is to let your teammates feel involved and engaged. It’s a very common first-time manager’s mistake. Where only you saying, your team member’s voice will be lost in translation.

 

 

There’s a thin line between ‘channeling the discussion’ and ‘completely dominating’ it.

PRO TIP: Keep one-on-one meeting based on a string a question. The idea is to probe the team member with the right questions and let them share their thoughts freely. You can find more than 550 questions in this most comprehensive list of one on one meeting questions.

9Gossiping and discussing office chatter

It’s not difficult for a conversation about team dynamics to head into another direction.😂

Any discussion about office culture or politics can get awkward. It seems harmless but this casual banter will only contribute to growing discomfort.

PRO TIP: As a manager, your job is to stay neutral, communication streamlined to agenda, and solve a matter.

Help your managers to have more meaningful conversations

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10Avoiding or postponing a one on one meeting

If you delay, postpone or cancel meetings repeatedly… your team is most likely to lose motivation and the zeal for a discussion and eventually bringing low productivity.

One-on-one meeting with your employees is your opportunity to let your team know that their progress matters to you and the organization.

PRO TIP: Make one on one meetings your priority in the to-do list.

11Avoiding video call

Kim Scott, author of the book Radical Condor and a management guru,

 

..about 90% of your feedback is non-verbal information.

 

The subconscious hand movements or an earnest eye contact goes a long way in gauging a direct report’s state of mind.

Sadly, they tend to go missing as we speak on the phone.

That’s precisely why you should never omit video call during a one on one meeting.

PRO TIP: Video Calls also help breaking the monotony of the “quarantine life” as well. Hence, keeping mental health at check.

12 Not being empathetic

We are living under a global pandemic with an environment filled with uncertainties and questions. What the world needs right now is unity, brotherhood and care.

Your direct reports are going through the same stress. And as a manager, your direct reports’ well-being and state of mind is your responsibility.

During these tough times, you need to rebuild confidence in your direct reports’ mind.

One on one meetings are your arsenal to help your team win this war.

You could start your one on one meeting with the following icebreaker questions

  • How is your family doing?
  • Are you taking care of your health?
  • Do you have enough stock of essential commodities?
  • Are you facing any issue where I can help?

You can also take help from free remote work tools designed to specifically facilitate one on one meetings.

You can use them to jot down important questions and set reminders during your one on one meeting.

13 Not taking actions to address employees’ issues

Let us imagine that you’ve a direct report called Stella.

Stella has never worked from home before and she never expected to. Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, she had to start working from home.

It was a challenge for her as he didn’t have a stable internet connection. She mentioned the same to her manager in her one on one meeting and he promised to help her out.

No actions were taken thereafter and when she inquired about it in her next one-on-one meeting, her manager apologized and said that it slipped his mind.

She has now asked her neighbor to continue sharing his WiFi with her.

Remote meetings help you find out problems and develop action items to address them. If you don’t render them, your direct reports’ trust will relinquish.

Pro Tip: Your direct reports depend on you for their guidance. Keeping your word can be the biggest support to your direct reports.

14 Avoiding feedback

There’s already enough tension prevailing in the world right now and you may decide to hold your feedback, especially if it’s constructive, to your direct report.

While this may help you in the short-term, sharing feedback is always better for the long haul.

Feedback is the backbone of effective communication and good leadership. It helps in shaping up performances and eradicating loopholes.

In fact, most direct reports eagerly wait for their feedback as it forms the basis of their future actions.

In times like these, they are even more unsure about how they are faring professionally. Avoiding feedback may cause more confusion.

On the other hand, constructive feedback will make them believe that you care about their performance.

Thus, ensure that feedback is an important part of your next remote one on one meetings.

Pro Tip: provide feedback in a less stressful way: –

  • Ask them for their feedback on their performance. “How would you rate your performance? Do you think there’s a better way to do it”?
  • Let them know that their mistakes can be improved upon. “That mistake is completely avoidable and I know you can do it. All you need to do is be more attentive.”
  • Tell them there’s always another chance. “So, next time when a similar situation arises.”. Or “How would you tackle this the next time”
  • Share experience with them. “You know; I did the same thing once.” Or “I know of someone who had a similar problem”

15Shying Away from Mentoring

A leader’s biggest identifier is how well she builds up her people.

They’re surrounded by troubling news; be their source of optimism and help them see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Pro tip: Ask them to disregard any rumor about layoffs and future of the company. Discuss the plan with them and value their opinion. Motivate them to grow their skill sets and become more effective at their work.

 

Summing it up

The positive impact an effective one-on-one meeting has on the morale and performance of your team is immense.

However, the key to their success lies in understanding their essence and avoiding simple and common mistakes most managers may commit during their one-on-one meetings.

Invest your time in the life of those working with you to achieve your team goals and make your management skills stand out.

Your path to success begins with a great quality of work and by avoiding these mistakes in a one-on-one meeting, you can build a better and high performing team.

 

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