“Collaborate with respect” is one of the core values of The Black Sheep and in pursuit of living our values, we regularly take a beat to assess how well we are communicating between ourselves. We have previously talked about how reading “The Culture Code” helped us create standards for promoting candid feedback, and now our leadership team has taken some time to break down what makes a truly great one-on-one meeting – and how to make improvements when it becomes necessary.

Use The Time to Actively Build Trust

One-on-one meetings are a great way for managers to establish trust with their teams and an opportunity for individuals to bring up their concerns in a private setting. “Generally, if anything, I’ll try to ask early on, ‘What is one thing I can do to make your experience better?’ ” says Brendan Bonham, our Chief Operating Officer, “I then do my best to fix that thing. It shows I’m willing to listen, a key ingredient to trust.  Maybe the key ingredient…”
Remember, the numbers have repeatedly shown that people leave managers, not jobs. The more trust a leader can build with their teams, the more likely they are to find out about peoples’ concerns before they can become problems.

Collaborate on the Agenda

It is easy for one-on-one meetings to get repetitive, nitpicky, or side-tracked without the guardrails of an agenda. 

Stuart Baum, our Director of Sales and Customer Success, follows a consistent structure where the staffer comes prepared with at least one bullet point in the “Stop, Start, Do More, Do Less” rubric that asks, “What is one thing that I, as your manager, should start doing, stop doing, do more of, or do less of?”.  This gives your direct reports a chance, in a structured format, to share a few ways you can help them be more appreciated and empowered.

A little bit of structure and time-blocking is important when it comes to ensuring everyone views their one-on-ones as a valuable use of time, as long as there is still room for natural ebb and flow to the conversation. 

Keep in mind, active listening is even more critical when the conversation starts to wander as signs of issues lurking under the surface may arise!

Last, but not least, don’t forget that these meetings belong to your direct reports, not you, the leader. It is your role to make sure they are taking the time to prepare prior to the meeting and, even before that, have a hand in creating the recurring agenda.

Take Notes, Recap, and Set Expectations

Taking notes may sound counterintuitive because typing may draw both parties away from being active listeners. With the clacking of keyboards and pings of notifications from email and chat, technology is often the disruptive force in a one-on-one meeting. 

Unless both participants set their devices to “Do Not Disturb” and contribute to a shared document, it may be beneficial to take handwritten notes along the way or reserve 5 minutes at the end of the meeting to rapid-fire type up the recap. 

Taking a moment to recap the meeting – and detail any “to-do” items – right before it ends allows both parties to solidify the action items that arise during the conversation and set expectations of each other for the time between one-on-one appointments. This creates momentum and allows everyone to easily review the progress that has been made over time.

Building trust, collaborating on an agenda, and documenting the conversations from our one-on-one meetings has allowed our team to make these meetings more impactful. 

Integrating these strategies into your own one-on-one meetings is an easy way to improve the communication within your company and ultimately make your organization run better as a whole.

Want to refresh the questions on your one-on-one meeting agendas?

The Black Sheep’s leadership team has shared some recurring questions from their roster that you can add to your arsenal for more a more effective check-in:

  • Have there been any recent decisions you disagree with?
    What is one thing that I don’t do, or don’t do often enough, that I could be doing to help you and/or the team? (i.e. the “Stop, Start, Do More, Do Less” rubric)
  • How are you feeling about your workload?
  • Is there anything you need help with this week?
  • Do you need to vent about anything?
  • Are you doing anything week to week that you think is a waste of time?
  • Do you have concerns about your teammates or anyone for another team?
  • What can we or I do to help you feel more included?