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With more team members than ever working from home these days, managers have had to quickly learn how to manage remote teams. It’s a big ask, and there is a lot to juggle as everyone gets up to speed, adapts to new technology, and adjusts to a new work environment.

And with all of those changes, it’s more important than ever for managers to stay connected to their teams. While holding regular team meetings is important, keeping up with one-on-one check-ins is arguably even more so!

When work gets hectic, individual meetings with employees are often the first thing to fall by the wayside. But carving out time for routine one-on-one meetings is time well spent!

By sticking to a regular one-on-one meeting schedule, managers can save time down the road. Ensuring that efforts are focused in the right direction and expectations are clear minimizes miscommunication and prevents future fires that need to be put out. Not only that, but keeping tabs on team members’ mental health and overall wellbeing is essential to maintaining motivation and engagement, especially when navigating change. By having regular one-to one conversations, you gain a better understanding of how to support and engage each individual in a way that works best for them. Frankly, there’s just no good replacement for eyeball-to-eyeball contact, even if that’s through a screen!

Carving out dedicated time and space for managers and direct reports to connect one on one is crucial. Here are our top tips to make the most of those meetings.

1. Make sure they happen.

This might seem like a no-brainer, but you have to take time to make time. We all know how tempting it can be to push off an internal meeting for something that seems more pressing in the moment. But for one-on-ones to add value, they need to happen regularly. Set a high bar for cancelling, ensure you show up on time, and don’t reschedule without an exceptional reason.

2. Set an agenda.

Implement a standing agenda so that both participants are on the same page, and adhere to roughly the same format each time, so there are no surprises and minimal prep time. Use a document-sharing tool like Google Docs to make setting the agenda a simple and collaborative process.

Disclaimer: Stay flexible, use your intuition and judgment, and be willing to adjust and throw the agenda out the window if something urgent (personal or professional) comes up during the check in or beforehand.

3. Use the time wisely.

An individual check-in isn’t the time to ask for project status updates or a deep-dive on the nitty gritty of KPIs (there are excellent collaboration tools out there that can serve this function better). Instead, treat one-on-one meetings with employees as a forum to build strong relationships, provide support, troubleshoot challenges, and share important organization updates.

4. Listen more than you talk.

The most effective check-ins see the team member speaking more than their manager. Ask the question, leave space for the response, and then listen actively, with the intent to understand rather than respond. Avoid interrupting, and truly give employees the floor. Solicit input, and ask about any challenges, bottlenecks, or support they need.

While this isn’t the right forum for a deep dive into project details, it can be a perfect opportunity for employees to provide honest feedback. By listening empathetically, managers build trust and create a safe space for staff to raise concerns and talk about issues. And that means you can troubleshoot problems together, before they escalate.  

5. Follow up on action items.

Inevitably, to-dos will come out of your one-on-ones. As a leader, this is where you get to demonstrate the responsibility you want to see in your team members – if you say you’ll follow up on something, make it happen! Likewise, hold employees accountable for follow through. Take notes and follow up post-meeting with any action items, so that you’re both on the same page.

Your Engaged HR Assignment:

Self check-in time! Are you prioritizing regular one-on-one check-ins with your team members these days? If they’ve taken a back seat lately, now’s the time to take five minutes and schedule a time to touch base this week.

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