One-on-Ones – The Employees Guide

One-on-ones are a powerful way for a manager and employee to build a strong working relationship. I’ve written about the importance of one-on-ones from a manager’s perspective, but I thought it was important to introduce this concept from the employees perspective. The rest of this post serves as a guide for employees.

Feedback is okay

As an employee, you may be nervous giving feedback to your boss, but the honest truth is that many managers crave honest feedback, yet rarely get it. It’s not natural for employees to give feedback.

You see, very few (if any) managers don’t want to be bad managers. But if you don’t give feedback, it’s tough to know where to improve. Here’s the takeaway – treat your boss the way you want to be treated. Don’t be afraid to give feedback.

These meetings are for you

The purpose of these meetings is for you to let your boss know what’s going on. Don’t be afraid to take control of the meeting and let your boss know exactly what’s going on. It’s perfectly fine to let your boss know you may be overwhelmed with work, or even personal issues (although we don’t recommend going into much detail).

Relationship-building

An awesome byproduct of these meetings is that your relationship with your boss can strengthen significantly. I found that by discussing issues and listening to my boss’s response, it helped me be more empathetic. Instead of me wondering why my boss would do certain things, I had deeper insight into his ability to try to build a cohesive team.

Don’t let them skip

Hold your manager accountable for their one-on-ones. For example, make sure they have a weekly/bi-weekly calendar event where you meet. If this doesn’t exist, ask them to make one. If your manager wants to cancel, ask them not to. This is your meeting, not theirs.

Prepare

Make sure to prepare for your one-on-one. I’ve found that if you have something difficult to discuss, make a list of the items and your reasoning behind it. The last thing you want to do is jump into a conversation and then go on a long rant with very little substance.

The first few minutes

The first few minutes of a one-on-one meeting your boss will most likely try to uncover any issues or improvements they need to make – it’s like they are playing detective. You can save yourself some time by just jumping in. It may not seem natural at first, but over time it will come much more naturally.

Recommend Process Improvements

As an employee, you have perspective that your manager may not have. Take the responsibility of an “owner” – if you see something wrong that should be fixed, don’t hesitate to speak up about it. If there’s a process that could be improved, mention it in your one-on-one.

Other Employees?

Should you talk about other employees during a one-on-one? I think it’s fine to bring up an issue with an employee if necessary. I wouldn’t go into extreme detail, but instead genuinely focus on how to improve the situation.

Finish with an important question

I always ask – “do you have anything for me?” It opens the door for the manager to give feedback. It may come natural for your boss to give feedback to you, so you may as well make it easy by opening the door. Once again, this may not come natural to you, but feedback helps you get better at your job. Take it seriously!

 

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One-on-One Meetings – The Ultimate Guide

If you’re new to the world of management, or have managed a team of people for years, there’s a seemingly simple process that can dramatically change how your company operates. It’s called a one-on-one meeting.

I’d argue it’s so simple that most people overlook it. Many people tend to overcomplicate things, when in reality, effective solutions can be incredibly simple.

At Friday Feedback, we are huge fans of one-on-one meetings. Most of the people using our software also hold these meetings. So, we decided to collect all the research and articles scattered across the internet, and create a massive guide that you can learn from, no matter if you’re a new manager, or someone with ten years of experience.

What are One-on-One Meetings?

First, let’s define what a one-on-one meeting actually is. As the name suggests, it’s a meeting between a CEO, director, or manager and one of their reports that happens on a consistent basis (weekly/bi-weekly/monthly).

The primary goal of the meeting is to check-in with employees, listen to them, and discover ways that you can help them be successful at work. They are also a fantastic way to uncover areas where you can improve as a manager.

Ben Horowitz has a great blog post on this topic and describes them this way:

“The key to a good one-on-one meeting is the understanding that it is the employee’s meeting rather than the manager’s meeting. This is the free-form meeting for all the pressing issues, brilliant ideas and chronic frustrations that do not fit neatly into status reports, email and other less personal and intimate mechanisms.”

A few quick rules:

  1. They generally should last about 30 minutes, but if important discussion is happening, don’t feel bad if they take a little longer.
  2. These meetings are for the employee primarily – let them drive.
  3. Listen.
  4. Avoid cancelling them at all costs (more on this later)

Why have them?

Think of all the areas of life where you rely on feedback to guide you to a better outcome. If you run a company, talking with customers and understanding their pain-points is a way to collect feedback in order to create a better product. If you stop talking to customers and try to build a product without their feedback, how well do you think that’s going to work?

Likewise, a football coach will make a decision about a specific play to run, and within seconds, there’s feedback that confirms if they’ve made the right decision or not.

These same principles apply to being a manager. If you collect feedback on your performance once per year (through a traditional performance review), you’re getting some feedback, but it’s so infrequent it makes change tough .  You need a consistent way to collect feedback and make corrections. A one-on-one meeting is a way to accomplish this.

Small Improvements vs. Fighting Fires

Wildfires start out as a small spark. The same principle applies with employees and problems at work. For example, Susy may not mind she can hear Jack’s music through his headphones the first time, but after the fifth day of overhearing the music, she may get upset.

If you manage people, conflict is unavoidable. It will happen. The question is – are you proactive or reactive? Would you prefer to fight wildfires, or instead discover and fix potential issues before they become a wildfire?

The simple practice of meeting regularly with employees through one-on-ones turns you from a reactive manager, into a proactive one.

Build Strong Relationships

An often understated aspect of one-on-one meetings is that they are great way to build strong relationships. By taking the time to learn more about someone’s goals and dreams, you can strengthen relationships and improve productivity.

For example, let’s say one of your employees enjoys brewing beer in her free time. It’s a passion of hers. As a manager, this is unrelated to the day job, but if you genuinely show that you care about this side activity, she will be more willing to “bat for you” at work.

Running Successful One-on-Ones

Now that we’ve finished the reasons why you should hold regular one-on-ones, let’s dive deeper into the mechanics of what a successful one looks like. Please note, these are guidelines, and after you have a few under your belt, ask employees what they would do differently.

Establish a Cadence

Creating habits take time and effort. When getting up and running with 1:1’s, the first few times will be the most awkward. We highly recommend creating a re-occuring event on Google Calendar (or Outlook) for each employee, and then inviting the employee to the event.

There’s two key ingredients. First, if must be a re-occuring event, so it’s not something you manually need to do every single week. Otherwise you will forget. Secondly, the employee must be invited. They too need reminders.

Don’t be surprised if you’re a manager, and forget about a meeting only to see the employee hovering outside your office (or saying “you ready for the meeting?” over email or Slack).

It’s not all about work

Here’s a fun fact – situations outside of work play a role in how successful someone is at work. We see responses in Friday Feedback all the time about people having personal issues/highlights outside of work. You don’t need to understand the nuance of the situation, but it helps if you as a manager are aware (and care).

One-on-ones are a great way to uncover what motivates employees. What motivates them at work? What do they love doing outside of work?

Show you’re a human – don’t be afraid to talk about things outside of work. It’s a great way to strengthen relationships, and is a awesome signal to the employee that you care.

Zoom In

Build empathy with employees by trying to understand their day-to-day life at work. It’s common that you can discover a process that can be improved with not that much effort. For example, you could ask them:

“What is the worst part about your job?”

It’s a quick way to see uncover the biggest pain. Imagine if you could help them discover a better way of doing the task (or even removing it from their plate).

Zoom Out

Make sure you zoom out every few months. Try to understand what motivates them as an employee, what they want to be doing in 3-5 years, and how you can help them achieve their career goals. If you help others achieve their goals, they will pull you along and help you achieve yours too. That’s the beauty of helping others – it all circles back around (eventually).

Example question: “What do you want to be doing five years from now? How can I help you get there?”

Prepare

Make sure to prepare before these meetings. It doesn’t need to be anything too intense, just set a few minutes aside to review the notes you made (or should have made) from the previous week.

Many managers use pulse surveys to help them prepare for one-on-ones. It’s an easy way to ask a few questions in advance, and then you can jump right in vs. asking generic questions at the beginning. Some people are better at having time to answer questions instead of being put on the spot.

Questions to Ask

Below are a few sample questions you can ask during a one-on-one:

  1. If you were me, what would you change about our company?
  2. What’s one thing we should stop doing? This question is important because everyone is always busy.
  3. What’s the worst part about your job?
  4. Do you see yourself here in three years? Why or why not?

Open-ended questions @ Beginning

Continuing on the theme of asking questions, make sure they are open-ended in the beginning. The goal is to get the employee talking and warmed up to the idea of giving feedback. I think of the manager as a detective – not interrogating, but instead, someone who is genuinely interested in helping.

Find ways to Improve

It may not come easy for some employees, but an important part of a one-on-one is to get feedback about where you as a manager can improve. Ask them questions like:

  1. How can I help you?
  2. How can I become a better boss?
  3. Is there anything specific I can do to improve at my job?

In Conclusion

One-on-ones are a fantastic way to build a high-performing team. They are a simple communication mechanism that pays dividends.

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Pulse Surveys – a manager’s guide to getting started

In a previous post, we discussed that pulse surveys are a quick and easy way to collect feedback from employees on a consistent basis.

In this post we’re going to share tips on how to get onboard your team to the idea. We’ve collected feedback from managers, and summarized what the most effective managers do to get their team onboard with the idea.

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What is a Pulse Survey?

Pulse surveys have become a popular way to collect feedback from employees on a consistent basis. This mechanism is relatively new, so this post will cover everything you need to know, and suggest ways to start collecting frequent feedback from employees.

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Employee Appreciation Ideas

There’s a plethora of ways that a boss can recognize an employee’s accomplishments at work. As a boss, showing that you sincerely appreciate your employees contributions is a great way to improve productivity, happiness, and morale. That’s why we’ve compiled an enormous list below:

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Negative Glassdoor Reviews: How employers can curb them

If you’re an employer of an organization with more than twenty-five employees, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of (or used) Glassdoor. In fact, you may have checked out your company profile, to find your ratings aren’t so great. It’s possible that you had a few disgruntled former employees leave reviews, and you want to find a way to cut back on this.

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10 Mistakes new managers make

If you’re a first-time manager, it’s likely that you’re nervous. You are now responsible for a team, and you want to do the best job you can. You also know that there’s common pitfalls…you probably want to avoid them.

You’ve found the right post. We’re going to discuss common mistakes that new managers make, and how you can avoid them. Let’s jump right in.

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How to say thank you at work

As a boss, it’s important to recognize the contributions of employees. Engaged employees are crucial to productivity and happiness. After all, what employee doesn’t want to make an impact on the job?

So what steps can you take as a boss to say thank you at work? How can you motivate the team to do their best work?

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Anonymous employee surveys are NOT ideal (most of the time)

Imagine you run a team of 10 people. You decide to send an anonymous pulse survey to the team in order to find out what’s working (and what isn’t).

You receive feedback from someone – it’s pretty harsh. But you have no idea who it is, so you can’t really fix anything.

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Pulse Survey Sample Questions

Pulse surveys are a great way to check-in on how the team is doing at a particular moment in time. They are meant to be a lower-cost and more efficient way to gain insight into the state of the team. They can be anonymous or with someone’s name attached.

If you’re looking for an easy way to ask these questions on a consistent basis, try Friday Feedback. It’s free and easy to get started.

We’ve provided sample questions below. We’ll start with popular questions, and then work our way into more granular ones. We will also categorize them (paragraph vs. numeric response, etc).

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