Do you need a 1:1 if you’re regularly communicating with your team?

One of the dangers of having a scheduled 1:1 meeting is that your report will hold everything and just talk to you then. They may think that because they have a weekly with you that this is the only time you’re available to them. You need to make it explicit that you’re available all the time. Things that can wait to the 1:1 should (they might solve it on their own if given the time), but they can always talk to you.

I tell my teams that I’m never doing something that’s more important than them. If they need me, grab me casually or schedule something with me. And if it looks like I’m completely booked up, tell me they need me and I’ll clear space. My job is to make the team successful.

The opposite problem can also happen. People can think that because they talk to you regularly, the 1:1 isn’t needed. I hear people say, “my manager is always available and we talk every day, so we only schedule a 1:1 for 15 minutes once a month.” That’s completely missing the purpose of the 1:1.

These people are treating the 1:1 as a fail-safe: “at least if we all get busy, I know we’re going to check in every once in a while.” That’s a certainly a function of the 1:1, but it’s not the prime function.

The 1:1 is there to work on how the work happens. It’s to dive deeper into why we’re doing things and how we grow. It’s to make us all better at our jobs. You’re simply not having these levels of conversation in hallway conversations or in your chat apps.

Think of the times you’ve gone to lunch or dinner with the boss, just the two of you. The discussions you had were deeper than usual, whether they were about family, office politics, or debating if you should move to microservices. How great are those moments?

Now imagine you could do those every week, with every employee. These are your 1:1s.

This is one of a series of posts about holding 1:1s. View the rest of the series.


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Encouraging 1:1s from other managers in your organization (Jan 4)
If you’re managing other managers, encourage them to hold their own 1:1s. It’s such an important tool for managing and leading that everyone needs to be holding them.
One on One Meetings - a collection of posts about 1:1s (Jan 2)
A collection of all my writing on 1:1s
Are 1:1s confidential? (Jan 2)
Is the discussion that occurs in a 1:1 confidential, even if no agreed in the meeting to keep it so?
Skip-level 1:1s are your hidden superpower (Jan 1)
Holding 1:1s with peers and with people far below you on the reporting chain will open your eyes up to what’s really going on in your business.
Do you need a 1:1 if you’re regularly communicating with your team? (Dec 28)
You’re simply not having deep meaningful conversation about the process of work in hallway conversations or in your chat apps.
What agenda items should a manager bring to a 1:1? (Dec 23)
At least 80% of a 1:1 agenda should be driven by your report, but if you also to use this time to work on things with them, then you’ll have better meetings.
Handling “I don’t have anything to talk about” in your 1:1s (Dec 21)
When someone says they have nothing to discuss, they’re almost always thinking too narrowly.
What should you talk about in a 1:1? (Dec 19)
Who sets the agenda? What should you discuss, and what should you avoid discussing?

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