The Effective One-on-One

In my previous post I talked about your responsibilities to your employees, which includes holding frequent one-on-ones with them.  Today I will discuss how you can make your sessions with your employees as effective as possible.

I believe one of the most important things we must do as leaders is to mentor our direct reports to help them learn, grow and develop, which in turn helps our company to do the same. Therefore, I believe in weekly one-on-one’s with every single direct report.

Before I go any further, I will acknowledge that this may sound like a real challenge.  But, once you schedule these weekly sessions and do everything you can to stick to them, you will see their value.  It may even be a bit unsettling for your employees at first.  But I guarantee you, they will come to look forward to their precious time in collaboration with you.

Naturally, things will come up which must be dealt with right away that will side track some of your sessions. Reschedule the session immediately so you stay on course and your employee won’t feel shorted.

These sessions should always be held in private so if you have an office, close the door. If you don’t but can find a conference room of some sort, use that instead. However, if all you have is a cubicle then you will have to make do. Just be sure your voices don’t broadcast across the office. Your discussions probably only need to be 30 minutes in length but again, schedule one hour if you can as there might be times when you will need it.

Always begin by asking your employee what’s new, what’s going on, where they are with any assignments, what the customers are saying and so on. Allow them the first 10-15 minutes (out of 30) to just talk to you and fill you in. Also, ask them what is going right, what is going wrong and what they need from you.

During your 10-15 minutes you should be prepared to tell them how you plan to follow up on any issues they have brought to your attention, if necessary. You should also provide any positive or corrective feedback you may have and make other assignments or delegate appropriate tasks.

This time each week allows you to review their past week and any progress they have made toward their overall performance expectations. Always make notes on what the two of you discuss each time you meet. In my years as a leader I found that it was easiest to type things into a document I created that broke the conversation down into 3 general categories; the employees 10-15 minutes, my 10-15 minutes and the last part of each meeting which should contain any immediate plans or action items.

Before each one-on-one take a moment to pull up the past week’s discussion document so that you can follow up or review with them everything that is pertinent. By keeping on schedule with these discussions, and keeping good notes, you will create a years’ worth of information that you can have at your fingertips when it comes time to write the annual performance evaluation. You will also see your employees start to embrace the process and utilize the time with you to its full advantage.

Communication of this type is transformational and key to accomplishments.

To your success!


Loree Selbst is a Partner in Your Remote COO. She is a leader who has a passion and expertise for identifying the strengths in others and helping them achieve success. Over the course of her career, she has succeeded in accomplishing more effective ways to optimize operational efficiencies. Loree is Six Sigma Yellow Belt Certified with a reputation for building strong teams focused on quality and exceptional customer service.