Make an impact now. Start having 1×1 meetings with the team.

Anastazja Michalak
By Anastazja Michalak
10 Min Read

I love to share interesting insights from my own life and work from the perspective of the Project Manager, especially when it is based on real hands-on experience. This time I decided to write about face-to-face conversations with team members.

How have I ended up having 1×1 with the team members?

The responsibility to conduct 1×1 conversations came when I changed the employer. For me, it has not been just a change of workplace. Now, when I look at it from the 2-year perspective, I realize that it made a major impact on me professionally and personally.

  • 🥇 It added additional experience to my portfolio of skills. I used to work as an infrastructure project manager and I changed into agile project management and software delivery.
  • 🎯 It shifted my focus to people and even better customer collaboration.
  • 🎁 It adjusted my area of responsibility.

Once I started to conduct 1×1 meetings with the team, it has become an eye-opening experience for me. The thing is that without such conversations (formal or informal) the (project) manager lives in a vacuum, without proper access to project life behind the curtains (especially now, when we all work from home) and without any insight into what is going on “on the ground”, how people really feel and what challenges they face. If you do not see or know the real picture, you are blind in the field, meaning you might see only one side of the story…

Today, it does not matter in which company I work, whether having face-to-face conversations is one of my direct responsibilities or not, I keep having them, I keep asking my team members what is going on with them, give feedback and help them improve. They help me in return – by showing where I can do better as a leader and where steps are needed to make the project or product a success.

Why should you start having regular face-to-face conversations with your team members now?

Here are a couple of reasons why you should plan and conduct regular 1×1 sessions with your team members. If this helped me, I am sure this will help you too.

  • You will connect with people personally. Managers shall not be the unreachable, always-busy “stars”, who have no time to speak to their employees. They absolutely must show interest in people. Your employees should know that you are available and can come to you to discuss any important feedback or concern. This builds mutual trust. You, as a manager, will know better who you work with. People are not soulless resources who like robots have to work 24/7. These are your employees, with their own lives, problems, and wishes. So if you want them to respect you, first you have to respect them.
  • Face-to-face conversations provide an excellent opportunity for feedback. I have noticed that in many corporations feedback is less personal, it is more like “just say something nice”. And people often say good things, more than mentioning the areas for improvement. When you connect individually you can provide actual feedback to a person, with some real examples, and listen to what this person has to say. We know that giving publicly negative feedback is not acceptable anymore, so giving it during 1×1 is something very useful. If you need some insights on how to give feedback, here is my article with useful hints:
  • You can track actual progress from feedback sessions. I personally have helped multiple people over our 1×1 sessions to adjust their behavior, shared with them my observations, listened to their side of the story, and helped develop an objective view of the situation. We together have set goals for enhancing the desired behavior and reducing the undesired. Isn’t this amazing? I wish I had such sessions in my time!
  • Team members give insights into the health of the team and the project. Different nations and different people behave in various ways. Sometimes you keep thinking all is great until you speak to one of your employees to realize that you were simply blindfolded. Behind a normal situation in the team, there might conflicts and misunderstandings, and a lot of mistakes.
  • You have a chance to make a real impact. In many agile books, international studies, and research articles it is underlined how important it is to match what people like and want to do with the job opportunity and responsibilities. This may significantly impact the job satisfaction among employees, help build strong teams and reduce the % of the personnel turnover. The best tool to do that is to have 1×1 conversations, learn how the employee wants to develop, and help build the development plan and match it with the opportunities in the project or company in general.

There are many more reasons why 1×1 sessions are so useful and helpful, but I hope I managed to cover the most important ones😉

Steps you can take now and get immediate results.

I can provide multiple arguments to back up my opinion about 1×1 sessions. But I believe that if I give you a few exact recommendations about how to get results now, you will be able to act and derive the value immediately.

So, what is important to know, in order to make those 1×1 meetings valuable?

  1. Have the 1×1 conversations at least once a month.
  2. Be honest. About good things and about bad things. If you are faking it – your team members will know it and you will lose their trust forever.
  3. Create an open environment. Make sure that it is safe to talk about things. Follow the rule “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”.
  4. Don’t make the meeting look too formal. Remember – easy and open environment.
  5. If you decide on something together over those sessions, make sure there is an action plan and it is followed.
  6. Never promise something you can not make happen. It will undermine your manager’s credibility. Never!
  7. Truly and deeply care about people. If someone is asking for help or support – check what is it that you can do to help. The 1×1 meetings are not just for you to gather input and give feedback, but also for your employees to share, get support and see the value of those meetings.

As you can see, 1×1 meetings are very helpful and they are crucial. Nothing can be better than seeing that your methods work and bring value.

What results have I achieved by practicing 1×1 meetings with the team?

I managed to achieve some amazing results in my work and I’d love to share a few of them here. You can make a difference too💪!

  • I coached some team members to resolve conflicts with other team members.
  • I coached my teams on customer collaboration.
  • I managed to understand the root cause of some team member’s behavior and act upon that.
  • I helped a couple of team members to ensure they make their work visible and convinced them why it was important for future promotion and visibility.
  • I coached the team members to speak up more during group meetings and be confident that their opinion mattered.
  • Through one-to-one conversations, I was able to better influence individuals when I planned a major change in the projects and I needed support to make it happen and have their buy-in. (P.S. This is a powerful tool, but be careful 👆 with using it).

I hope this information was useful and it will help you manage your work even better from now on. If you know someone who can benefit from this information, please share. If you have additional useful insights about 1×1 conversations with the team, please share, I would love to hear about them. Let’s support each other in continuous improvement. Sharing is caring!

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By Anastazja Michalak IT Program Manager, PMP
I am a certified Project and Program Manager with hands-on experience in delivering complex business initiatives since 2014.
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