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One-on-one meetings are intended to focus on employee development in an individual sense by taking the time out for a performance review. Unfortunately, these meetings often get postponed, skipped or labeled as a lesser priority because they are usually unproductive. When there are meetings scheduled too frequently or people are ill-prepared, there can be little to discuss. There are a few things you can do, however, to make the most out of your one-on-ones and make each meeting count.

Prepare for the Discussion

You may be too busy to fully plan each discussion point, but you should never go into a meeting unprepared. Jotting down some bullet points about what you intend to discuss is a good start. Not only will it keep the meeting on track, it will demonstrate to your team member that you also value their time and would like to get straight to the point.

There really is no point in discussing performance if you have no talking points prepared for the individual. You should never have a meeting just for the sake of it or to honor a time slot.

Schedule Accordingly

The frequency with which you schedule employee reviews can depend on the number of projects, team size and employee skills. The amount of times performance reviews happen isn’t as important as making sure that they are on a consistent schedule (so people can plan and anticipate discussions).

Additionally, it is critical to stick to the timeline. Never show up 10 minutes late to a twenty-minute meeting or reschedule at the last second. It is rude to your employee and shows you do not value their time. This sends the exact opposite message of what you are trying to communicate.

Be Present and Aware

Keep the devices to a minimum and make sure you are giving the team member your fullest and most alert attention. Shift gears and get out of autopilot. You should consider the idea that you are trying to improve the performance and life of another person and that deserves your forthright attention. It’s easier than you think to send an inadvertent message that you’re not mentally there during a performance review.

Positive Before Negative

Whether you plan to criticize performance or not, it is always good to start with the positive by sharing a “win.” Congratulate the team member on a recent accomplishment. Acknowledging you understand how hard someone worked on a project is a great start. Beginning the conversation on a good note creates a positive feeling and allows people to be more open to critiques.


Employee reviews can be incredibly effective but only when they are done right. There is no point in holding an intimate discussion if you are poorly prepared or running short on time. The most efficient way you can communicate with your team members is by making a consistent effort to be present during their one-on-ones. Plan accordingly and start the conversation off in a positive light. A little goes a long way and team productivity and performance only increases when people feel like they’re being heard.