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10 Leadership Tips for 1:1 Meetings with Employees

10 leadership tips for 1-1 meetings with employees

The military places an enormous emphasis on “counseling” — 1:1 meetings between leaders and subordinates that define the tasks, conditions and standards.  That is to say clearly defining the job to be done, the conditions in which those tasks will be carried out, and the standard or measurement to be achieved.

The same leadership principles are easily transferable to management in the civilian world, and I always enjoy writing about how my part-time work in the Army relates to my full-time work in PR.

To that end, here are 10 tips for 1:1 meetings.

1.Be disciplined.   The best thing that manager can provide to an employee is their undivided attention.  Turn your phone off…whatever it is can wait 30 minutes.

2. Establish goals.  Goals should include both their contributions to the organization and to their own professional development.

3.Seal it in ink.  The sheer virtue of putting your discussions in writing, where both parties acknowledge the conversation with a signature, ensures a higher level of commitment.  Things slip that are not sealed in ink.


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4.  Measure goals.  Peter Drucker is famous for the philosophy that, “What gets measured, gets done.” Review the established goals quarterly for progress or completion.

5.  Just say it.  Don’t shy from a tough conversation.  Managers cannot expect a change if they don’t clearly identify the issue.  If there’s a problem or an issue, tell them clearly what the issue is and prescribe corrective action.

leadership tips

6.  Remove obstacles.  A key part of a manager’s job should be to remove obstacles so their employees can do their jobs. Junior managers ought to have the ability to solve their own problems with little intervention and when they seek a senior manager’s help, it’s because something is blocking them from doing their job — and by extension blocking you from doing yours.

7. Atta-boy or Atta-girl.  The most underutilized tool in a manager’s toolkit is a compliment.  If someone’s doing a great job – tell them.


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8. Say what not how.  Tell an employee what you want done, not how to do it, unless they are seeking your help.  Often employees will surprise you with ingenuity or creativity and as they grow they will gain confidence.  This is an important part a manager’s responsibility to facilitate the growth of his or her employees.

9. Second chance at success.  My father, who has long since passed, used to say, “You’ve got to fall down 1,000 times before you’re an expert.” When an employee fails, gain something from that investment by asking them, “What did you learn?”

10. Performance and potential.  This might ring of Jack Welch, because I first heard the term from a friend who was part of GE’s management program:  pay for performance, promote for potential.

An earlier version of this post on 1:1 employee meetings was first published on Quora – and there are other submissions well worth reviewing.  What tips would you add?

Photo credit:  Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

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2 comments
Jose Ramos
Jose Ramos

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