When you work as a manager to a group of team members, what is the most important goal? There may be a variety of answers, but the one that we place at the top of the list is building a solid relationship. When you know your team members as individuals with their own goals and attributes, managing them effectively is much easier. The cohesiveness of your team and the quality of work that you produce is directly related to your rapport with them.

There are a dozen things to do on a daily basis. There is hardly time for all of them, which is why you prioritize. That list of priorities needs to include one-on-one meetings. They consist of just what the name implies: spending time with each team member by themselves. This is seen as a part of building communication and fostering a positive work environment. Keep reading to find out the importance of one-on-one meetings, how to conduct them with your team mates, and some mistakes to avoid when you are speaking with your team mates.

The Importance of One-on-One Meetings

Your direct reports probably think differently than you do. As a manager with many tasks on your plate, casually speaking to your team as you walk through and inspect their work may pass as “communication”. When they have questions about the project, you are there to offer help and answers. So, why is anything else needed?

Here is the perspective of your team members. They ask questions that touch the surface of things – like project talk. But, they feel that you don’t see and hear them as well as you could. A few minutes here or there are not enough to get at the heart of whatever they feel is a pressing problem, whether professionally or personally. In fact, they are uncomfortable asking certain questions when other team members are around to hear.

One-on-one meetings are a different sort of relationship builder than just speaking to everyone each day for a few minutes to discuss project stuff. The purpose of these meetings is to spend time with each team member in a focused environment. Whatever is pressing on their minds will become the topic of the meeting time.

Perception is everything. To team members, the perception of you as a manager is that you are okay but not great because you don’t make time for them. Isn’t it worth a satisfied and cohesive team unit to spend about 30 minutes with each employee on a weekly or biweekly basis? Simply meeting with them shows that you care enough to hear them out and give them time to express their feelings in a secure environment.

Conducting One-on-One Meetings with Team Members

Begin the process of implementing one-on-one meetings by adding them to your daily schedule. It is probably not good to conduct more than one direct report (team member) meeting a day. This doesn’t crowd your schedule and it also keeps the procession through your office from looking like an assembly line. Remember, these meetings are in the best interest of your direct reports, so resist the urge to tack on your concerns about them.

When you know that the meetings will be conducted weekly (depending on how many direct reports you have) for a set amount of time, your team members will be selective about what they discuss. By assigning importance to each item, they will get to the heart of the more crucial issues to make the most of their time with you.

Create a structured format for your meetings. For instance, in a 30-minute meeting, the first ten minutes will be for the direct report to address whatever they want to discuss. Spend the next ten minutes replying to the issues brought up in the first ten minutes. If their issues are just observations, then most of your talk will probably be about their project progress. Lastly, for about ten minutes you can discuss with the team member about their future goals on the team and within the company as a whole. This information can give you an idea of how to direct their work to help them move along their desired career track.

Mistakes to Avoid when Conducting One-on-One Meetings

Believe it or not, there are several ways to go wrong with these types of meetings with your direct reports.

  • Choose a suitable venue – a public space discourages free exchange of expression. A conference room is too big and often hard to schedule when larger meetings need to be conducted, leading to frequent cancellations. An office with a closed door is suitable.
  • Don’t talk first – this meeting is about the direct report and not you. Resist the urge to “get the ball rolling” by giving your 2 cents. The team member is immediately put off and any meaningful relationship building won’t take place.
  • Make eye contact – checking email on your computer or answering messages on your phone is not focused attention. Your direct report will notice this and probably stop talking or say that they have nothing to speak about that day.
  • Call your team member – if you can’t speak face to face, perform your meeting over the phone. It is bad form to make the direct report call you first. Always be proactive. It shows that you are genuinely interested and want to listen. The same rules apply for the structure of the meeting.
  • Avoid cancelling when you can – if you must cancel, do so at the last minute because of an unforeseen change. Reschedule within the same week and do so at the time of cancellation to let the direct report know it is important to you.


One-on-one meetings foster a much deeper relationship between managers and direct reports. The air is cleared on a regular basis and communication is much more productive concerning project work.