In my first years as a manager, I didn’t explain to my reports what a 1:1 meeting is for. It seemed obvious to me. This is a common manager mistake. We think that what’s obvious to us is obvious to others.
#Realtalk, Every:1 who reports to you has their own view of what a 1:1 meeting is, what to use it for, and how to use it well. Their previous experiences before they joined you have taught them certain expectations of a 1:1.
This sounds obvious, but needs to be said: assuming that 2 strangers ('cos that's what you are) both have the same idea about how to have 1:1s (or about anything else for that matter) is a recipe for something nasty.
The impact of no aligning on the purpose of a 1:1
At best, you will waste time and effort trying to have useful 1:1s when you haven’t aligned on what a successful 1:1 looks like with Every:1 you manage. Neither of you can afford to leave the success of the most important meeting in your partnership to chance.
At worst, you'll misunderstand and frustrate each other. Distrust will breed in the dark corners of your relationship. You'll feel it in the awkwardness of every interaction until 1 of you decide to align on what's wrong. Or 1 of you will call quits.
Don't get caught out, try this:
In your next 1:1 say something like: “Hey, we’ve never spoken about this, but I’d be interested to hear what you think a 1:1 meeting is for”. This will open a conversation where you can explicitly discuss and align on:
- What a 1:1 meeting is for: To discuss and align on issues that will increase their impact and accelerate THEIR career progress.f
- Meeting format and expectations: Time, place, frequency, agenda, rescheduling, etc.
- What a bad 1:1 meeting looks like: Signals that something is not working and needs correcting.