15 Tips to Making One-on-Ones Worth Your While!

M. Nora Klaver Posted by M. Nora Klaver, Executive Coach, Bouchard Executive Coaching Ltd..

Nora is an accomplished executive coach with 25 years of experience developing corporate leaders. She is the author of Mayday! Asking For Help In Times of Need.


15 Tips to Making One-on-Ones Worth Your While!

How many times has your boss blown off your weekly one-on-one meeting? 

How many times have you done the same to a direct report? 

How can you create a one-on-one that no one wants to miss?

It is possible!

Before venturing out on my as an Executive Coach, I worked for a Big 6 consulting firm. Even back in the stone age (the 1990’s), our days were busy and filled to the max. We had precious little time to spend communing with our bosses. Nevertheless, I did get a lot out of my one-on-ones. It was without a doubt the best development opportunity I had on a regular basis — because my boss understood how to make the most of our time together.  (Thanks Don Grady!)  www.linkedin.com/pub/don-grady/1/384/b40

Now, time moves even more quickly. I hear from my clients that they can’t afford time for one-on-ones, and their bosses seem to miss each scheduled meet up with impunity. When a one-on-one does occur, too much time is wasted on status reporting.

To make the most of your time with your boss, or your time with your direct reports, keep in mind the following:

  1. Shift your mindset. These meetings are development opportunities, not just time to “check in.” Decide to learn about each other, the challenges faced by your team, and how to grow your leadership.
  2. Limit status reporting. If you must cover status, do it quickly — no more than 5 minutes. Better to submit a numbered summary or a dashboard than waste valuable time reviewing each project.
  3. Share success, not problems. Celebrate at least one success in your time together. Kick off your agenda with a success story. The resulting energy will set the tone for the rest of the meeting. And if you have more than one story, save it for the end. That way you both leave the meeting with a great buzz!
  4. Present your ideas. Prove you can solve issues. Rather than asking for advice about a particular issue, offer up a suggestion. Then, discuss it openly — pros and cons. It’s easier for a boss to respond to a suggestion than to delve into the detail and then come up with an answer herself.
  5. Talk about the latest Harvard Business Review article or in-house training topic. Take a leadership principle from the article and discuss how it might work on your team. Make agreements on how you will roll it out to the group.
  6. Plan your next team meeting. Brainstorm the needs of the team. Classify them: communication, problem solving, confrontation, client service, etc.
  7. Perform a goal check-in. You probably set goals at the beginning of the year. Talk about them! Discuss your progress and don’t wait for mid-year to do it!
  8. Discuss rumors. Your boss may not hear the ones you do! It’s good to get them out in the open since many of them turn out to be true. Discuss how best to present a united front.
  9. Discuss examples of good leadership. Rip an example from the headlines. And then say, “What I might have done in her situation is…” Avoid being overly judgmental. Remember there’s probably someone out there right now being critical of your own leadership! Use this exercise is to develop you as a leader, not a complainer.
  10. Review strengths. Share what is currently energizing you at work. Discuss how you might be able to create more of that energy on a daily basis.
  11. Dream. Kick back and talk about where the team is headed, trends in the industry and off the wall ideas. Discuss how you could bring these dreams to life.
  12. Turn the tables. Discuss your boss’ biggest challenge. Question your supervisor.  What are the most difficult aspects of his/her job? What keeps him/her up at night? What surprises him/her most about the work? Then, be sure to offer to help!
  13. Share your networks. Are you both on LinkedIn? If not, talk about which online networks seem to meet the needs of your industry. Ask for advice on the contacts you should try to cultivate. When meeting with your own direct reports, offer up names of key contacts that have proved helpful to you. Talk about relevant associations and how you both can have greater impact with them.
  14. Ask for feedback. Avoid general questions like, “How am I doing?” It’s too vague and it beckons a wide open response. Go for something more actionable and specific, like, “What do you think I can do to improve in project management?” Or, “What suggestions do you have for me as I interact with our key stakeholders?”
  15. Relax. Spend time connecting with your supervisor or your direct report as people. Be a person, not a boss or employee. Get to know who they are. Let them know you. You may be surprised that the both of you end up looking forward to your one-on-ones!

What other ideas do you have? Share them and let’s create better and more effective one-on-ones for everyone!

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