Think about the working relationships you have with your team.
These relationships are slowly built over time through working on projects together and making small talk in the office. But, more often than not, you create a solid working relationship with your teammates by having regular one-on-one meetings with each other.
To ensure your working relationship stays strong, it’s imperative that you never cancel your one-on-one meetings with your team members.
- What are one-on-one meetings?
- Why you should never cancel your one-on-ones
- What to do if you HAVE to cancel your one-on-ones
- What to do when there’s nothing on the agenda
- Free one-on-one meeting agenda templates
What are one-on-one meetings?
A one-on-one meeting, sometimes called a 1-on-1 or 1:1, is when a manager or supervisor connects with each person who reports to them. During this time, a manager and their direct reports can discuss team issues, any questions they may have, roadblocks or challenges they’re experiencing, and where they are with their to-do list or priorities.
These meetings are also great for providing feedback, checking in on employee sentiment and morale, and discussing overall performance. If there’s anything that either the manager or their team member would like to bring up that isn’t suited for a public space or a team meeting, this is the time to have the conversation.
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Why you should never cancel your one-on-ones
No matter the size of a business or the industry, having consistent one-on-ones on the calendar for all managers and direct reports is crucial, which is why these meetings should never be canceled.
- Takes time away from bonding with your team members
- Causes you and your team to miss out on time to ask questions
- Limits the time you have to give and ask for feedback
- Allows you to ensure things are running smoothly
- Weakens trust between attendees
- Decreases productivity
- Disrupts attendees’ calendars
1Takes time away from bonding with your team members
Having consistent one-on-one meetings with your team members allows you to bond with one another. Not every 1-on-1 will be a conversation about problems to solve and fires to put out. Instead, many of these conversations will likely be opportunities to get to know one another, talk about career growth, give feedback, and carry out small talk about hobbies and interests.
Taking this time to get to know your direct reports also gives you a better understanding of their strengths, weaknesses, and working preferences so you can better set them up for success.
2Causes you and your team to miss out on time to ask questions
It’s common for one-on-one meetings to be a time for questions, so without this allotted time that can lead to getting the right answers, your direct reports could be left wondering how to move forward on certain tasks. Not only could this put a roadblock right in the middle of their to-do lists, but it may also lead them to assume incorrectly what the answer may be, which could cause a disruption in their workflow or the need to do the same task twice.
3Limits the time you have to give and ask for feedback
A strong working dynamic between a manager and their direct reports all starts with feedback. Regularly sharing real-time feedback in these meetings lets your direct reports know how they can improve. Instead of waiting to provide this feedback during quarterly reviews, make it a priority to share this feedback during these meetings.
Since you always want to keep a record of the feedback you and your direct reports exchange, you don’t want to cancel the meetings where this feedback takes place.
Fellow enables your team to share real-time feedback on meetings, projects, and performance.
4Allows you to ensure things are running smoothly
If you’re leaning towards canceling your 1:1 meeting because you’re just too busy to meet, it’s in your best interest to reconsider. Whether your team is working under a tight deadline, a high-priority meeting has popped up on your calendar, or you’re simply under a lot of stress, a busy time is when you need a one-on-one meeting even more than usual. You want to make sure things are running smoothly for your direct reports, they don’t have any questions, and they’re not experiencing roadblocks.
As a manager, busy times become less stressful when you’re reassured that everything is running smoothly—which happens during productive conversations and due to effective communication in 1:1s.
5Weakens trust between attendees
As a manager, if you frequently cancel one-on-one meetings with your direct reports, they’ll start to feel like you feel like there are other things more important than meeting with them. Over time, this will weaken your employees’ trust in you as a leader and as someone who cares about the hard work they’re committed to doing for the team.
You always want your team members to feel like you value their work and are willing to make time to hear their concerns or feedback, so canceling these check-ins, especially if these cancellations happen regularly, will likely lead to low morale and even lower productivity.
Your direct reports are likely creating a list of things to bring up or ask you during your next one-on-one, whether this list contains questions, things they need to confirm, or general comments they’d like you to know as they make their way through their to-do list. Without this check-in, your direct reports are likely to experience a dip in productivity, especially if one of the questions on their list to ask you is holding them back from moving forward with one of their tasks.
7Disrupts attendees’ calendars
Whether you have one-on-one meetings with direct reports weekly or biweekly, participating in these meetings establishes a workflow and a routine with your employees. Breaking this meeting cadence and routine with your employees will disrupt their calendars and likely impact their workflow.
What to do if you HAVE to cancel your one-on-ones
While yes, sometimes emergencies happen and canceling a one-on-one meeting is unavoidable, there are four things you can do to ensure the best possible outcome.
1Reschedule it ASAP
If you’re canceling a one-on-one meeting with a direct report, reschedule it immediately. Take a look at your calendar and theirs, and find a time that works for both of you.
Rescheduling the meeting instead of canceling it altogether lets your direct report know that you still want to meet with them, and you know having this meeting is important. They will also appreciate the effort to maintain the meeting cadence as best as possible.
2Give lots of notice
If you’re going on vacation or the date of your next 1:1 falls on a holiday, it’s possible to know pretty far in advance that this meeting will be canceled. When this is the case, give lots of notice to your direct report that this meeting won’t take place and ask how they’d like to proceed.
It’s also a good idea to remind one another that your next one-on-one falls on a day when either one of you will be out of the office, or that it’ll be a holiday, so there’s no confusion and so important questions or points get brought up in advance.
3Propose a short check-in instead
Another way to ensure your direct report doesn’t feel blown off by the canceled one-on-one is to propose a short check-in instead. This can be in-person, over video conferencing software, or over business instant messaging software.
Even though it’s just a short check-in, make sure to create an agenda (or use a template!), so the both of you can make the best of the short time you have to meet. These brief meetings are ideal for answering any quick questions that may be holding your direct report back from moving forward with a task on their to-do list.
4Avoid making it a habit
While canceling a couple of one-on-ones a year isn’t a big deal, canceling every month is cause for concern. Don’t make canceling these meetings a habit. Like any habit, it’s a hard one to break. And once you feel like canceling these meetings with your team is “no big deal,” you’re likely about to lose the trust of your team-if you haven’t already.
What to do when there’s nothing on the agenda
If a one-on-one meeting is on your schedule for the day, what do you do when the agenda is looking a little sparse?
Remember: Don’t cancel! There are always questions to ask and ways to build trust and rapport with your team. If you’re looking for ways to get the conversation flowing, check out these 1:1 questions to ask your direct report.
Some questions you can add to the agenda are:
- What are your top priorities right now?
- Do you have all the tools you need to get your job done?
- What was your favorite thing you did since the last time we met?
- Is there anything specific that’s slowing you down right now?
Alexandra Sunderland, Senior Engineering Manager at Fellow, mentions not having an agenda in 1:1 meetings during episode 124 of our Supermanagers podcast. She states,
“Even when you have one-on-ones and there’s nothing on the agenda, somehow, we always end up filling the full time, talking about work things and catching up, as well. But, I think my go-to when there’s ‘nothing to discuss’ , since that’s never a thing, because there is always something that you can talk about. And I’m not a big fan of turning it towards status updates on projects, because there’s so many other methods of catching up on that. My favorite thing to do is to ask a lot of questions, because people like feeling heard. It makes people feel good to see that people are listening to them and agreeing with what they’re saying.”
Free one-on-one meeting agenda templates
Looking to ensure your one-on-one meetings are always productive with effective communication? Take advantage of one of our agenda templates–totally free!
Ready when you are!
Canceling a one-on-one meeting may seem like a great way to claim an extra 30 minutes of your day to get an important task done, but in the long run, it’s simply not worth it. Not only are you building a solid working relationship with your team by following through on one-on-one meetings, but you’re also establishing trust and working through roadblocks together. So, as tempting as that extra 30 minutes may be, keep the 1:1 scheduled. The long-term negative impact will always outweigh the short-term gain.