Use One-on-One Meetings to See People's State


I'm a big fan of one-on-one meetings between the manager (or project manager) and the employee. Private meetings provide the manager a chance to see project and personal status in a way that group meetings and email status reports don't. I wrote an article for Software Development about one-on-ones.

BTW, if you're using group meetings to share everyone's status, stop right now. Those meetings are a waste of time, because they're serial one-on-one meetings. Boring for everyone else, and they don't elicit the information you as a manager needs to know.

Here's my recipe for successful one-on-one meetings:

  1. Ask about the employee's current state. Ask to see evidence of progress, especially if the employee tries to tell you something is 80% done. You both know it's not 80%. It might be 40% or 90%, but it's not 80%. Without evidence of progress, you can't tell what is complete and what's not complete. Neither can the employee.
  2. Ask if there are obstacles you need to remove.
    • If you're the employee's personnel manager, talk about career development.
    • If you're the project manager, ask if the employee what they see about the project. (“What stands out for you, about this project?”) Make sure you're asking an open-ended question.
  3. Ask the employee if they have issues to discuss.

Esther Derby and I are running a teleclass on how to create successful one-on-ones, starting May 28. The first session is free. Email me if you'd like to join us.

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