In our last post, we discussed 10 common challenges that surface while holding employee one-on-ones, and tips for overcoming them. But why have them? Particularly in young startups, where roles are ill-defined and responsibilities change frequently, they help ensure alignment and a shared commitment to real-time professional development. We are firm believers in the value of holding regular 1:1’s with your direct reports, and this is why they work…
Builds a relationship
Employee one-on-ones carve out time to have frequent open-ended discussions with your direct reports about how things are going — both inside and outside the office. The more you know about your team member, the easier it is to manage empathetically, with a deeper understanding of their perspective and external factors. Though we still recommend a structured conversation, starting with a few minutes of casual talk helps form a more human connection.
Uncovers roadblocks, issues or concerns
Perhaps the most unanticipated benefit that will come out of regular one-on-ones is that you will uncover hidden roadblocks or issues plaguing your team without directly asking for it. If you are holding them with all of your direct reports, you will hear from multiple points of view, and start to notice trends… use this as data to better refine the current process, team structure, and management style for your team. Needless to say, your team will continue to open up to you and bring their challenges your way if you react and resolve conflicts immediately.
For new managers, building trust is your single most important asset for being an effective first-time leader. We see a lot of new managers, particularly in the startup & tech community today, who dive into management roles without much experience with what it means to manage people. By establishing clarity around roles, responsibilities, and performance expectations you foster a trusting relationship. Ask your direct report to paraphrase their understanding of the role or assignment, and any misalignments will instantly surface. Building trust will come if you commit to regular 1:1 discussions with your direct reports, don’t skip them, and follow-through on your action items.
No one likes to wait until a year-end review to hear how they are performing. In fact, we believe that feedback should always be regular (and real-time where possible). Each member of your team should know exactly where they stand at any given moment with you (as their manager) and how they stack up against the rest of their team. This is a hard goal to achieve, but these regular check-ins provide the time to work towards this level of transparency and trust between you and your direct report.
Committing to the 1:1 is about committing to real-time professional development for your team. It not only benefits the employee, it benefits you. By working together to discuss near and long-term career goals, you can identify the right challenges that motivate your team to succeed. There is an art to perfecting the one-on-one, and as a manager you will iterate on it throughout your entire career of managing people.