Are you a skeptic of 1:1 meetings? Or are you a fan and advocate?
Whether you need convincing yourself, or are looking to make a case for others to have one on ones, this is the post for you.
It’s historically been difficult to put a real value on soft skills. Yet, any good leader knows how important they are. 1:1 meetings are the king of soft skill habits.
We’ve been helping managers and their teams start and have better one on ones for nearly 4 years now. Over and over again we’ve seen how these meetings help managers and their teams. Through that time we’ve collected a lot of evidence of many different types, which we’ll lay out for you below.
The True Value of Having 1:1 Meetings with Your Team, and How to Make the Most of Them
In a survey in the Harvard Business Review, executives of large organizations estimated that soft skills issues were costing them over $144,500 every day. Meanwhile, Gallup has found that 70% of the variance in employee engagement is caused by a person’s manager.
While 1:1 meetings between managers and their team members cannot solve all your soft skills problems, they can lead to an improvement across a variety of common issues:
- Poor communication
- Lack of feedback
- Career growth and development stalling
- Unclear purpose of work
- Lack of trust and confidence in their manager
- Bottled up frustrations
- Interpersonal and inter-team conflicts
This is why understanding the value of 1:1 meetings is so important. Getting started with them is often the biggest hurdle. Then, once you start having them, you realize how helpful they are to fix so many common problems.
Here are some of the best data we’ve seen on the value of 1:1 meetings…
1) Employees of managers who don’t have 1:1 meetings are 4 times as likely to be disengaged.
In a detailed study inside 2 Fortune 100 companies, the Microsoft Workplace Analytics team found some stark contrasts between teams with and without 1:1 meetings.
As reported in Harvard Business Review, they found:
“Perhaps unsurprisingly, employees who got little to no one-on-one time with their manager were more likely to be disengaged. On the flip side, those who get twice the number of one-on-ones with their manager relative to their peers are 67% less likely to be disengaged.“
As they dug deeper into their data, it became even more clear:
“And what happens when a manager doesn’t meet with employees one-on-one at all?
Employees in this situation are four times as likely to be disengaged as individual contributors as a whole, and are two times as likely to view leadership more unfavorably compared to those who meet with their managers regularly.”
So not only does a lack of 1:1 meetings cause disengagement, it also makes employees think all of your company’s leaders are poor.
2) Adobe & GE had huge results shifting to 1:1 meetings
Adobe and GE have both previously made a lot of noise in the press about their moves to get rid of performance reviews. When they did this, they switched to their managers having frequent 1:1 meetings instead (typically meeting every 2 weeks).
The impact was significant in both cases:
- Adobe, “saw a 30 percent reduction in voluntary turnover.”
- GE was able to “drive a fivefold productivity increase in the past 12 months.”
You can keep your performance reviews and still get the same benefits from 1:1 meetings. In fact, reviews and 1:1 meetings go together quite well as we’ve previously covered on the Lighthouse blog here.
3) Employees who have regular 1:1 meetings with their managers are 3 times more likely to be engaged.
Gallup, the king of employee engagement reports, also has strong opinions on the value of 1:1 meetings. In their research across millions of employees, they found the difference in engagement for those having 1:1 meetings versus not was massive:
“On average, only 15% of employees who work for a manager who does not meet with them regularly are engaged; managers who regularly meet with their employees almost tripled that level of engagement.“
Can you afford to have only 1 or 2 people on your team engaged? Look at what those engaged employees do better than disengaged staff:
Who wouldn’t want 20% more productivity and profitability along with lower turnover, reduced surprise days off, and half as many safety issues? Some managers are crazy for not having 1:1 meetings that could bring all these benefits.
4) 1:1 meetings can help reduce turnover
We’ve talked about it many times on the Lighthouse blog: people leave managers, not companies. The actions you take and do not take directly impact the morale, motivation, and likelihood of turnover on your team. The data is overwhelming:
Research from Salary.com shows that 23% of employees look for a new job every single day. The same research also showed the majority of those searching cite having a “poor manager” or “poor relationship with manager” as their reason.
2) Dale Carnegie
Reinforcing this, Dale Carnegie’s 2016 Leadership Study indicated 41% of the global workforce will likely change jobs this year. Again, “bad management” was the #1 reason for switching jobs.
3) Hogan Assessments
Research by Hogan Assessments showed that 75% of employees considered their direct boss to be “the worst part of their job.”
Clearly, there are problems with a lot of managers. And we know from the stats from Gallup’s and Microsoft’s studies, that one of the biggest reasons for turnover, disengagement, and negative outlook on leadership is a lack of 1:1 meetings.
5) Experienced leaders swear by the value and importance of 1:1 meetings
The evidence for the value of 1:1 meetings is not just a collection of numbers or stories from random managers. Some of the most respected entrepreneurs, CEOs, and investors swear by them as well.
From a CEO’s perspective he emphasizes how critical these meetings are. He strongly believes they need to be baked into a company’s culture, as the quote above continues on to emphasize how you prevent your company from becoming a “bad place to work”:
“…one-on-ones provide an excellent mechanism for information and ideas to flow up the organization and should be part of your design.”
Horowitz is in good company. Here are some of the many leaders that agree with him and have written about it:
- Andy Grove, who built Intel from 0 to $20 Billion in revenue, devoted a whole section of his leadership book, High Output Management, to them.
- Serial entrepreneur and angel Michael Wolfe wrote about why startups need them so much.
- Serial entrepreneur, SaaStr founder, and investor Jason Lemkin calls weekly 1:1 meetings the #1 management hack
- Senior engineering leaders Camille Fournier, Kate Matsudaira, Mathias Meyer all deeply believe in their importance.
- Buffer, who very publicly got rid of managers and suffered, found 1:1 meetings were one of the most important things to bring back to fix things.
Across industries and eras, it’s clear that good management includes good, regular 1:1 meetings. Too often, these meetings are missed, which is why so many great leaders evangelize their importance.
How to make the most of your 1:1 meetings
Now, hopefully you’re convinced how important these meetings are, or you have the information you need to convince others. However, as GI Joe used to say, “knowing is half the battle.”
The other half is actually doing the right things.
Setting aside time to start meeting regularly with your team is a great start. However, what you do with that time is just as important. It’s why we built Lighthouse to help managers like you.
The links below are a few good places to get started:
1) Starting brand new
If you’re brand new to 1:1 meetings, then you need to take a few key steps to start them well. These links will help you start on the right foot:
- Here’s how to start one on ones with your team
- You can share this link with your team to explain one on ones
- Start by building rapport with your team members by asking some of these questions. Strong rapport makes discussing other topics more comfortable.
2) Improving existing or inconsistent 1:1s
Maybe you tried 1:1 meetings in the past, or have them currently, but don’t get a lot of value out of them. This is all too common. To turn them around, try some of these approaches:
- Take the time to talk about their career goals and desire for growth. Create a plan for how they can get there over time.
- 1:1 meetings are a great time for feedback and coaching. Try these 5 ways to give feedback better than shit sandwich
- These are a variety of topics and questions that are perfect for one on ones that you may not have tried before.
3) 1:1 meetings for advanced leaders
If you keep your 1:1 meetings religiously and your team looks forward to them, then these tips are for you. These are what other advanced leaders are doing that can expand and improve both the quality of your 1:1 meetings and performance of your team:
- Dealing with an underperformer? Here’s a step by step, battle tested process to turn around underperformers using your one on ones.
- You can’t promote everyone, but you can grow them. This post gives you a variety of ways to grow your employees without promoting them.
- Do managers report to you? Find out how your managers are doing with skip level 1 on 1s and ask these questions to support managers in their 1 on 1s.
65% of employees would take a new boss over a pay raise. Maybe if more of those 65% of managers took the time to have good 1:1 meetings that number would be a lot better.
Want to be a great leader who has amazing 1 on 1s with your team? Now is the perfect time to make improvements or start 1:1 meetings, and Lighthouse can help.
Tap into our helpful reminders, simple prep, a library of good questions to ask, and more by starting your free 21 day trial now by clicking here.