What are your tips for making 1:1 meetings more productive?

To help you make 1:1 meetings more productive, we asked business leaders and HR professionals this question for their best tips. From starting with a personal wellness question to setting a hard “stop time,” there are several tips that may help you to make your 1:1 meetings more productive.

Here are nine tips to make 1:1 meetings more productive: 

Send Out “Primer” Information
The number one thing that boosts the productivity of 1 to 1 meetings is sending out ‘primer’ information beforehand. Sending an email to the client or employee that outlines what will be discussed in the meeting, what they should do to prepare for it and if they have any preliminary questions is a very effective way to make the most of the time you share during the meeting.       

Spend Just As Much Time Preparing
Especially when the calendar calls for back-to-back-to-back meetings, managers tend to just “show up” to 1:1 meetings without putting in the prep work. In order for an effective meeting to take place, I’ve found that a manager needs to spend just as much (or more) time preparing for the meeting as holding the meeting. A general rule I use is to spend 1:1 for 1:1 meetings. A one-hour meeting requires at least one hour of preparation thinking about the outcomes, objectives, and obstacles within a meeting. Putting in the prep work can be tough when time is limited, but making the time is just as important as showing up for the meeting. 
When holding these types of meetings, it must be remembered that the meeting must be a combined effort that turns into a win/win for both parties. (Photo: freepik.com)

Start With A Personal Or Wellness Question
One of the most important factors to remember in these meetings is that you are both human beings. I know, duh, right? In reality, many of us look at 1:1 meetings as yet another task to check off our ‘to-do’ list. When sitting down, either in-person or via video, it’s helpful to start the meeting with a check-in of some kind. It could be a question about how someone is feeling, what they did the previous weekend, one thing going really well in their personal life, one thing going really well at work, or something completely off-the-wall like a quick conversation about a book they read that totally changed their perspective on life, or a song that they turn to for inspiration. Working to lower any artificial defenses before getting into the meat and potatoes of the conversation will help create a more meaningful and productive conversation. 
Let Employees Lead The Conversation
The one thing that can make all of the difference in the effectiveness of 1:1 meetings is allowing the employee to lead the conversation. Great leaders will ask great open-ended questions to facilitate conversation and will then be great listeners and allow the employee to "drive" the conversation. 1"1’s are not discipline or counseling meetings. Their purpose is to build a stronger connection between the leader and their team member, and provide a safe environment in which the employee can express satisfaction or communicate issues. Make it the employee’s meeting, first and foremost.

Develop Meeting Rhythms
To make 1 on 1 meetings more productive, the host of the meeting (most likely the manager) should develop meeting rhythms to ensure the meeting is productive and time-efficient. Meeting rhythms are a bit different than agendas, they are more free-flowing, but still are conducive to information sharing. Keeping it simple - "What did you accomplish last week?", "What are your priorities for this week?" and "Where are you stuck?" are three good questions to ask during a 1 on 1 that can yield productive results.

Use A Shared Doc
For recurring meetings, I highly recommend using a shared doc where both people can build out the agenda each week. By putting everything in a Google Doc (or similar collaborative document), it means you’ll cover everything you meant to go over. It also makes it easy to review what happened in previous meetings. And if the meeting is with a manager or direct report, it creates a point of reference when it comes time for self-evaluations or performance reviews.

Ensure Both Parties Win
When holding these types of meetings, it must be remembered that the meeting must be a combined effort that turns into a win/win for both parties. Even if the meeting consists of a manager/employee, both parties share in the overall productivity and success of the meeting. The most effective way to accomplish this is by having a defined agenda to which both parties contribute to. Each party must bring to the table a healthy list of topics and questions that can ensure the success of this 1:1 interaction. Neither managers nor employees are mind readers, and without a carefully thought out agenda, productivity during the meeting will suffer, and honestly, little good can come from it.

Have A Hard “Stop Time”
When meeting with clients, employees, or partners, have a hard “stop-time” that you do your best not to go over. If the end time is nearing and you still have several points to go over, kindly ask if they would be okay running 15 minutes over the scheduled stop time. If yes, then continue. If not, wrap up and send anything else in an email. Sticking to a designated time lets the person you are meeting with know that you value their time. 

Get Clear With Your Next Steps
Get clear with your next steps. Once you're done with the meeting, what will you do with the information you received? A lot of people say, 'Knowledge is power.' For me, knowledge is just knowledge. Knowledge combined with actions is power. It's what you decide to do with the knowledge you gained from the meeting that will dictate whether you had a successful meeting or not.
Source: SHRM.org

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