One-on-Ones In A Single Day

Turns out for me Wednesdays are a good day for one-on-ones. Until recently I had been running weekly one-on-ones with my ten or so direct reports across Wednesday and Thursday afternoons.

One-on-ones have really improved my relationship with my employees and vice versa. Problems are detected and corrected sooner, even really quiet team members get and give feedback at least once a week, and there’s a regular opportunity for coaching.

To be effective you need to fiercely defend your times for one-on-ones. During the meetings even the ringing phone goes unanswered. I don’t even glance at it to see who’s calling. If it’s the CIO with a fire to fight they’ll come down and pull me out of my office.

Two afternoons in the middle of the week turn out to be a tempting target for almost any other manager to schedule competing meetings. There’s an assumption I can re-schedule my one-on-ones since they’re only 30 minute meetings with employees. After 18 months of fighting this reality and having to re-arrange at least two meetings a week because of my schedule, I got a better idea.

Why not just schedule all my one-on-ones for a single day? The idea was appealing on several fronts:

  • It’s easier to defend a single day on your schedule rather than defending two afternoons.
  • It frees up larger strategic chunks of time on the other 4 days of the week.
  • Some of my staff start fairly early in the morning so scheduling a one-on-one at 8:00 AM is feasible.

Barely into implementation now I’m realizing unanticipated benefits:

  • I do a better job prepping for one-on-ones. You only need to prep for about 2-3 minutes per employee to jot down things you want to cover, but when the sessions were in the afternoon I often tried to do that during lunch. Now I pull down my one-on-one folders and start prepping first thing Wednesday morning.
  • I get a better sense of where my whole team is. By compressing all the one-on-ones I get an insight into what the general mood of the team is especially about business issues that impact the company as a whole and how they’re handling them.
  • My follow-up on action items is better. Fairly regularly some action item comes out of a one-on-one. Unfortunately when I mixed and matched one-on-ones with regular meetings I’d be dashing around and often I wouldn’t get around to looking at the notes and trying to do follow-up until Friday. Now I’m getting to those follow-up items on Wednesday or early Thursday morning. Faster feedback loops.
  • Selfishly, I get a sense of accomplishment. Going home at the end of the day having heard and talked to all of your employees gets me a little bit of a charge as a manager.

My results may differ in a few months but so far I’ve been able to defend my Wednesdays and achieve a better outcome for my one-on-ones.