Tips and Tricks

March 1, 2018 By Raph DaCosta

Why Your Small Team Needs One-on-Ones — and How to Conduct Them

March 1, 2018

By Raph DaCosta

Read More from Raph DaCosta

March 1, 2018

Why Your Small Team Needs One-on-Ones — and How to Conduct Them

By Raph DaCosta
Social Media Specialist

Many businesses use one-on-one meetings to engage their employees, build loyalty and improve the relationship between managers and their teams. But for the owner of a small business that only has one or two employees, these meetings may seem redundant. After all, don’t you already communicate regularly and know your employees well?

Don’t confuse one-on-one meetings with the everyday interactions with your team. One-on-ones have a defined purpose. They are not the same as a regular project review, status update meeting or casual lunch.

One-on-one meetings are your chance for distraction-free, meaningful conversations that you’re too busy to have when everyone is heads down, immersed in the day-to-day work. Their overarching purpose is to provide two-way feedback and reflection, as well as to discuss both the company’s and the employee’s progress and goals.

The benefits of one-on-one meetings for small businesses are well documented:

Employee recruitment and retention: SCORE, an organization that helps small businesses, said in its 2017 small-business job report that for 55% of small businesses (in this case, defined as having up to four employees), hiring became more challenging compared to six months prior. Many couldn’t fill their positions for months.

You know your benefits and pay can’t always compete with larger companies. What you can offer is an opportunity for both personal and career growth. The one-on-one is where you can discuss the employee’s aspirations.

SCORE also found that personal referrals from other workers was the most-successful recruitment strategy for small businesses. If your team thinks you’re an awesome boss, they’ll rave about you to their friends!

Morale booster: Your employees will feel heard when you give them a consistent channel for sharing their ideas with you, along with a safe place to discuss their challenges and frustrations.

Business momentum: Mark Zuckerberg has been reportedly meeting for one-on-ones with his COO, Sheryl Sandberg, ever since she joined Facebook. They say these meetings “help share information and feedback and keep stuff moving forward.” This ritual has become key to their partnership. While you’re company is likely a bit smaller than Facebook, your employees are still your partners and you need to talk to them regularly about your shared vision.

How to Host Productive One-on-Ones

1. Have an agenda.

While these meetings don’t need to be super formal, they’re not an invitation for aimless dialogue. Know in advance what you want to discuss, and ask the employee for discussion points as well. You’ll want to contemplate some more difficult topics (like raises) in advance, or perhaps look up metrics to support your talking points. A loosely structured agenda should do — you want some flexibility as much as you want a roadmap for the conversation.

2. Listen more than talk.

As the Dalai Lama is quoted as saying, “When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” As the boss, you can freely tell your team any time what you want them to know, but how often do you take the time to listen?

One-on-ones are a two-way conversation, but it should really serve as the employees’ stage more than yours. Let them drive the conversation. When you’re the one talking, watch for visual cues to gauge how engaged they are in the conversation. If your team is remote, use videoconferencing for the meeting so you can still get those visual cues.

3. Create positive energy.

One-on-ones are not meant to be a rant session, even if you want to discuss a problem. Start with something positive, like a shared win or compliment for a specific project well done. If you are discussing a problem, approach it from the perspective of constructive problem-solving and an opportunity for both of you to learn.

4. Follow up.

No meeting is productive without accountability built in. Make sure to follow up on any promises you made and check in on any assigned tasks. Your one-on-ones don’t replace good-ol’ day-to-day communication and follow through.

One last tip: Regular meeting rules still apply. So start on time, eliminate common distractions and keep the agenda rolling.