In the world of management, one of the most important aspects is managing a team effectively. As someone who has had experiences in this field, I have come to appreciate the importance of managing teams of individuals, both employees and freelancers, and maintaining productive relationships with them. To do this, one of the most critical practices is the establishment of one-on-one meetings, known also as 1:1s.

When I first started managing teams, I did what everyone does: I searched for best practices online and in books. I quickly discovered that 1:1s are one of the primary tools for establishing a rapport with the person you are managing. They are helpful for both. One-on-one meetings are often illustrated as a means of checking in on the individual status, any blockers that hinder performance, and to create a dedicated space to vent or discuss work-related issues.

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As a manager, one should adapt to the individual needs and get feedback on overall progress and team dynamics. Are we focusing on the right things as a team? Are there certain perspectives that are missing in the project? What are you working on? How can I help? These meetings are meant to be personalized and private, allowing for frank and direct discussions which may be difficult in a group setting where other social dynamics can come into play. It's also hard to have an open and supportive discussion individually, don’t get me wrong. Certain conversations need to be very direct and frank. But it's definitely easier to do it in a more private setting.

Although these are excellent questions to focus on during one-on-one meetings, their primary purpose is to provide a space for the person being managed to grow professionally. It's essential to understand that the focus of these meetings should be on the person you are managing, not just the work output the team, or the manager. It's a more intimate moment of connection, and it's crucial to establish a safe space for professional growth and development.

The main crux of any professional life should be growth. You should focus on where the person is heading, where they want to head, who they want to become, and how they can reach the highest level of satisfaction. Satisfaction should be the goal of everybody in life, but let’s not digress.

You are doing a disservice if you just focus on the work and the output. You should be focused on that. Where the person is heading, where they want to head towards, who they want to become.

Sometimes, this conversation can be difficult, as the individual may not be thinking about their growth or where they want to be. For example, in my past experiences, I managed people that wouldn't have much to say besides status updates. And I think that is key to challenge this perception, to challenge why we are having 1:1s, to challenge why it's important to have them.

It's essential to give them a structure and expectation about the type of relationship and growth that is expected.

It’s necessary to understand if the direction that the employee wants to grow in is compatible with the company's current situation and the overall direction.

It's not uncommon for the employee's vision of their future to not be aligned with that of the company or the team. In this instance, it's critical to have a conversation highlighting this, as it's important for the employee to know where they're going and if they'll be satisfied with the role. Sometimes, this conversation may result in the person leaving the team as the two visions are not aligned. But it comes from a good place, a place that wants the better for both parties.

However, if the visions align, the manager should work as a coach or accountability partner – a person to bounce off ideas, that provides a place to grow together. The manager should not keep the person their managing them accountable for the sake of the team or for the sake of the company. The manager should keep them accountable for their own good. For the good of the person that they’re managing. The manager should be a coach. They should enable them to be the best version of themselves. This is part of how you build trust. Trust is the key ingredient for a successful individual relationship.

Given the importance, 1:1s don't have to happen every week or every two weeks. In the beginning, they are necessary to establish a relationship and boundaries, but afterwards, once a month is sufficient. It gives the right amount of time for the employee to act and reflect on their progress.

One-on-ones are not just a place to speak about the status quo. One-on-ones are a place to focus on the person and their growth. The employees' desires and professional growth should be at the center, enabling a safe space to talk about themselves, where they want to be, and how they will get there. Truly, one-on-ones are there to give individuals a space to grow.