[Power Hour Wrap-Up] How to nail your 1:1s

As a manager, your main job is setting your direct reports up for success. At The Mintable, our main job is helping you get there. 1:1 meetings are without a doubt, one of the best tools at your disposal. These meetings between manager and report are sacred, dedicated, recurring times where the sole focus of the discussion is making sure the employee has everything they need to be successful.

Our latest Power Hour gave participants an in-depth guide for nailing the 1:1. With a thoughtful approach to planning and a game plan for troubleshooting common problems that can come up, these meetups can be the difference between a good manager and a great one.

Preparation is key

1:1s are not optional. They are an absolute must-have on the agenda of every manager. How frequently should you host them? We recommend weekly or bi-weekly. Generally any cadence less frequent than biweekly tends to negatively impact the direct report’s engagement. The good news is that by keeping a regular cadence of 1:1s with each direct report, you are more likely to maintain higher engagement on your team.

Preparing for the 1:1 is as important as the meeting itself – here are a few tips to maintain a well-oiled 1:1 machine:

  • Get recurring meetings on the calendar, at the same time each week if possible, so you never miss a meeting or have to deal with weekly scheduling issues
  • A calendar naming convention can be super helpful for managers who are juggling 1:1s with a number of employees. Pro-tip: as a manager, enter the direct report’s name first so you always know who you’re meeting with
  • Keep the meeting to 30 minutes
  • Create an ongoing agenda document (download our free 1:1 agenda template) and link it to the calendar event

When it comes to preparing the agenda, the majority of content should be owned by the direct report, not the manager. Assigning the direct report the responsibility of preparing an agenda ensures that you’ll talk about what is most important to them and will empower them to fully own their success.

Run it like a boss

When it comes time for the actual 1:1, stick to the agenda you’ve set out in the agenda document (it’s there for a reason!).

Begin by genuinely checking in. The person you’re managing wants to know you really see them. Ask questions like “What’s giving you energy at work this week?” “Is there anything happening outside of work that I can be helpful with?” But it’s also important to keep it tight. If more than 20% of the meeting is spent on non-business related chat, it might be a sign that you’ve veered off track.

A general guide for time management could be:

  • 10-20%: check-in
  • 30-40%: business progress (including wins for the week)
  • 20-30%: surface issues that the direct report needs help from their manager to unblock
  • 5-10%: mutual feedback (manager to direct report and/or direct report to manager)
  • 5%: manager updates

When it comes to feedback, try to offer a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative feedback. Each week, consider if there was anything (big or small) that your direct report did that you want to celebrate, validate, or reinforce. The feedback portion of the 1:1 agenda doc is a great place to capture this praise. If these meetings are about setting your team members up for success, we don’t want to be bursting their balloons week in, week out.

Avoid the pitfalls

The first and most important rule of 1:1s is that they are sacred. Which means, never moving or canceling the meeting (or at least only doing so as a last resort!). Doing so can erode trust over time and lead direct reports to think they are the least important item on your calendar.

Another big culprit of a mismanaged 1:1 is when the manager sits in the driver’s seat. This is not your moment to provide 30 minutes of updates or feedback. If the direct report doesn’t lead, they likely won’t have space to share what’s truly important to them. It also makes for a pretty stale, one-sided relationship. No thanks.

Know how to troubleshoot

What do you do if your direct report is showing up unprepared or late? Do you just sit in awkward silence? Do you cancel? At The Mintable we offer scripts to get our managers ahead of the game. Here’s a summary of what we suggest:

  • Set the expectation that 1:1s are owned by the direct report and are not optional. Give them a standard agenda template and advise them it should take 10 minutes to complete.
  • If someone is consistently late – be curious first. Maybe they have an important meeting beforehand that runs over each week? Invite them to select a new time.
  • If they show up unprepared – never cancel. First, take five minutes for them to jot down talking points. Then, reset expectations.
  • If personal time is dominating – First, understand if there is a more serious issue at play and the direct report needs specific support. If the personal conversation is of more of a casual nature, try setting up coffee check ups, dedicated to personal time where any of your reports can come for a quick 15 minute catch up on non-work related chat.
  • If you have too many direct reports, too little time, try moving weekly catch ups to biweekly and/or offer office hours (i.e. an open door policy at a set date and time each week).
  • If you as the manager are taking up too much time, disrupt that pattern. No more than 10% of time should be spent on manager updates.

Always remember, 1:1s are for your direct report first and foremost. You’re there to facilitate their growth. Be the manager you always wanted to have.

A huge thank you to our Mintable Managers who joined us for the session and asked the important questions. To watch the session in full, just login to The Mintable platform. And if you missed our previous manager Power Hours (even if you’re not a Mintable Manager) you can catch up here:

Power Hours are included in all AdvanceMint memberships, you can see our Q1 schedule here. If you’re an HR or People pro looking to get your managers in on Power Hours – give our team a shout and learn more about our offerings to get started.