When Esther and I wrote Behind Closed Doors: Secrets of Great Management, we didn't really think one-on-ones were a secret. But, managers weren't conducting the one-on-ones regularly. The managers canceled for other “higher priority” meetings.
The first modern management book is about how managers manage themselves. Part of that management is how and when they decide to conduct one-on-ones.
At first, I wasn't sure I really needed to include that chapter. But, way too many managers still don't work to find good times for one-on-ones. And, they cancel the one-on-ones.
I'm not just talking about the one-on-one between a manager and person doing the knowledge work. I'm also talking about a more senior manager conducting one-on-ones with his or her management team members. Managers deserve one-on-ones, too.
I have two rules about one-on-ones:
- Create a regular cadence for the one-on-one, at least once every two weeks. Longer than that and you're not creating that trusting relationship. You don't gain the organizational information you need.
- Find a time that works for both of you. That means understanding how the other person needs to organize his or her time.
I recommend you read Paul Graham's Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule. If you have not yet considered how you block (or don't) your time, that essay might help you see your options.
(Esther and I offer a self-study class: Make the Most of Your One-on-One Meetings.)
Make sure you always conduct one-on-ones. Find and maintain a regular cadence, at least biweekly. You'll learn more than you can imagine.