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One on One meetings for managers: Frequency and Duration

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How long should your 1:1s be? How often should you run them?

My default is one hour once a week for people that report to me. The length is important since it often takes people a long time to come around to bringing up difficult topics. People don’t like to discuss hard things and need some time to warm up before they get going.

Some managers like to do half-hour 1:1s, but I find that’s not enough time to dive into meatier topics, and you’re often just getting to the hard parts of the conversations at 25 minutes in.

If you don’t take up the whole hour, that’s fine. Let your report end early. But if they’re consistently running out of things to say 10-15 minutes in, then you probably need to do some things to help the employee have a more effective 1:1. More on how to do that in a future blog post.

I start with once a week because this is sometimes the only time my team is talking to me, especially if you have a distributed team. While I encourage them to bring up things that can’t wait if they come up between 1:1s, sometimes they just don’t feel comfortable doing that. Having a weekly checkpoint makes sure that things don’t go too long before getting handled.

If someone’s a lot more senior in their role and self-sufficient, it might make sense to push these back to every other week. A CEO probably doesn’t need to talk to the VP of Sales that’s been with them 15 years every single week. Same with the tech lead on your team that’s been a tech lead with this same team for many years. But it’s important to realize that a senior person is only senior for that specific role. If you take a 20-year employee and put them in a new role, they’re no longer senior and probably need to talk a whole lot more.

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

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