Rethinking the 1 on 1 meeting.

Rethinking the 1 on 1 meeting.

If you work at any place with a team, manage a team or if you run a company I’m going to assume you’ve had a 1 on 1. I’m going to assume you dread them. I’m going to assume when you walk out you’re even less motivated because of how pointless it was. And I’m also going to assume they go something like this.

“Are we still doing this 1 on 1?”

“Oh yes, let’s do that. I was looking forward to zoning out for the next 15-30 minutes.”

“Ok so here’s the agenda. I did x,y,z and we grew X and we’re going to focus on this next week to make sure we’re on pace for our targets.”

And blah, blah, blah. And more blah.

Traditional 1 on 1’s are archaic.

Why are we doing this? It’s just another meeting to throw on the calendar. Let’s waste more time talking about what you did in the past and want to do in the future. There’s nothing real happening. It’s all wasted energy that could have been used on executing something meaningful.

And worst of all, both of you didn’t get anything valuable out of it and even if you did, the value wasn’t equal.

I’m here to ask you to stop. Please.

We live in a world now where reviewing your “weekly progress” can be sent in a short email. Status updates on a project are sent in automated reports from your project management software. Sharing a google doc outlining your quarterly plan for the future can be collaborated at the same time and in real time.

All of this can make the age old 1 on 1 become extinct.

Connect personally. Close the gap. Get to what’s important.

That’s exactly what I do in my 1 on 1’s. My goal is to close the gap.

I want to share what I do with my company, MOJO Marketplace. When it reached a point where I felt like I couldn’t have my hands in everything I started something called “MOJO Minutes“.

Essentially, every month I have 10-15 minutes scheduled with every MOJO employee. Yes, everyone. Sometimes it’s in my office, a couch or a walk to grab coffee but I try to keep my calendar open for things that are important and to me my employees are the most important before anything else.

The MOJO Minutes looks something like this if it’s their first one.

“The stage is yours. I want to spend the next 10-15 minutes getting to know “Mike”. I want to know what makes you tick. Let’s get to know each other personally, what do you need from me and what are we not talking about that we should be at MOJO.”

The goal here is simple. I want to connect personally, close the gap between the two of us and get to what’s important.

What happens next is where the real magic lies.

I keep mentioning “close the gap”. This is the most important part.

During traditional 1 on 1’s there’s no substance. There’s no connection. You’re creating “YES” women and men. They are just wanting to please you, take notes of what you want and get out alive. You never get to the juicy parts of what’s on their mind.

In short, your employees are your soldiers, usually on the front lines and they can give you the feedback to make the slight adjustments to stay successful. The problem with your agenda driving 1-1 is you’re widening the gap between you and your most important part of your company. Your employees.

By getting to know each other personally, you create a connection that brings you closer together. You’re closing the gap. You start to learn what motivates them. What their strengths are. More importantly, with a connection the questions start coming out as you gain trust and they become comfortable with you.

“I’m concerned about this issue, can I share what’s going on?”

“Why do we focus on X?”

“Do you want us working on this or that?”

“Do you need anything from me?”

You’ve connected personally and closed the gap on figuring them out and vice versa. They start figuring out what’s important to you as they feel more comfortable asking questions. You’re getting to what’s important.

There can be value in 1 on 1’s.

I’m not proposing if you have a company of 500 employees you need to personally meet with everyone. You can teach this method of 1 on 1’s with your leaders to get more out of your employees. Connect personally, close the gap and get to what’s important.

Drop the agenda. Lose the status quo. If you’re managing people and you implement this strategy it can make your team feel like they have a sense of purpose, feel respected, feel acknowledged and more motivated then when they walked in. You will have effectively closed the gap and in return you’ll both reap the benefits.

4 Comments Rethinking the 1 on 1 meeting.

  1. Lori Yunk

    Can you imagine if business leaders actually took the advice to throw everything we think we know about 1:1’s out, and just made way for normal conversation, probing questions and a personal investment? Excellent read!

  2. martin vella

    In a previous role at Barclays Bank Technology Centre in the UK, I once had a manager ( the best manager I ever had ) who would suggest we go for a walk outside for our 1:1 and initially I would be nervous that he would give me a big list of things to work on and I did not even have a pen and paper! However we would simply walk / talk and cover any topic that came to mind from either of us and it really did help to “close the gap”. They were both informal and powerful.

    Its great that you bring up stuff that so many other leaders would not bother to mention.

    1. JR Farr

      That’s awesome! I think the idea of a walk is great too because it removes some of the intimidation out of a 1:1.

      Appreciate you always stopping by to comment Martin! 😉


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