No more awkward 1–1s: make them good, make them work for you

Courtesy Pexels (Christina Morillo)

Thanks to those who checked out starter wisdom for new managers! Loved that it resonated and getting follow-up questions.

One that came up a few times was advice on how to do effective 1–1s.

Although it sounds mundane and obvious, the art of 1–1s is worth obsessing over. How you approach 1–1s has a big signaling effect on what you value and how you operate as a leader. And you can’t afford for it to be a waste of time.

So, you know, don’t slack on this part.

Here’s what I found works in high-intensity, demanding environments, and you should craft and customize for the individuals on your team.

1. Always show up

2. A little structure, not a lot

  • ⅓ Share an insight that is useful to that person (e.g. new information from executive meeting or partner conversation). Be generous in passing along business context that they don’t otherwise have access to.
  • ⅓ Check in on the person, not the work. Ask how he / she is doing. This is especially important during new hire on-boarding or new relationships. Pulse check their overall wellbeing and demonstrate that you care.
  • ⅓ Listen and problem solve for what’s top of mind for that person. Help them walk out of the 1–1 with a concrete “win” like a better state of mind, a solution or an action.

3. Protect 1–1s from the grind

4. Be present

5. Get the energy right

Courtesy Pexels (Pepe Tapia)

There is a ton of literature on this topic but I find that 1–1s are more art than science. Pro tip: being authentic and open will allow others to enter that space as well, so don’t create power distance where it’s not needed.

Hope this helps! Feel free to share your ideas and tips in comments below.

Thirsty for knowledge, big on impact. Glass 3/4 Full. COO & Biz Dev Exec. Rival, Uber, Twitter alum, angel investor, advisor @January_VC

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