Knowing your team one “One-on-One” at a time

I genuinely feel good when someone else benefits from my life experiences. Things happen for a reason!

In the same way, I feel good in my work when my team benefits from my knowledge and experience. Being in a leadership position enables me to share those experiences and help each team member grow.

As “manager”, the title implies that I am accountable for the performance of my team. Putting that expectation aside, the most important aspect of my role is to support them in their day-to-day work. The best way I can do this is to establish a relationship, not only with the team as a whole but most importantly, with each individual. 

Having regular one-on-ones is the key to creating a partnership. There are no shortcuts to building mutual trust. 

A one-on-one is a time set aside between you and your team member to discuss issues, ideas or frustrations. It should be regular, consistent and focussed on the person in front of you. This is NOT a time for status updates. We’ve got email for that. 

Set a recurring meeting and don’t cancel it! Reschedule and reschedule again if you need to. Cancelling sends a message that your time is more valuable than their contribution to the team. If you have a remote team, have virtual calls with FaceTime, Skype, Slack or Zoom. If you don’t like how you look on screen, don’t look at yourself, look at them. 

Do a walk-n-talk. Take them out for coffee and chat along the way. People relax when they walk. Make notes when you get back to your desk. Set aside time at the end of the day to update the file that you keep on each team member. Spreadsheets are great for this or invest in a tool that helps you organize. Lighthouse is a simple online tool that I have used to create the habit of keeping track of one-on-one conversations.


Having one-on-ones is an opportunity for you to grow as a leader. Hone your coaching skills. Listen well, talk less. Understand what role you play in helping them win. What are they working towards? Is it just to be happy at work? What makes them happy? 


Goal setting causes stress for a lot of people–the feeling when HR sends out reminders to set goals for upcoming performance reviews. Help your team members set goals that suit them–their personality, their ways of learning and working. Most goals will naturally align with the company’s goals. 


Find what you have in common. What do they spend their time doing outside of work? Maybe they just chill on the couch most of the time. Are they watching TV? What are they watching? Are they are reader? Maybe they like Lego, hiking or cooking. What they do outside of work can give you insight into what makes them tick.

Let them see you are human, that you have weaknesses and strengths. Put aside the opinion that you can’t be friends. Friendship and leadership have a lot of similarities. This approach works especially well for those that are shy. Talking about themselves is easier than talking about work. Eventually they will trust you enough to share their thoughts about their day-to-day.

Spending time with your team will supplement the performance reviews. Regular feedback can address issues and help each of you focus on things that matter.

Having one-on-ones is time consuming–we know that, and we are all busy. Neglecting your team by not investing in an effective one-on-one approach will ultimately affect the productivity and success of the team. Now open your calendar and get started!

Dawn recently attended StarCanada and had the opportunity to share on the value of One-On-Ones

Published by dawnjardine

A writer by choice, a computer geek by necessity, and everything in-between.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: