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Having 1 on 1 meetings with employees can be one of the best ways to utilize personal engagement to improve work satisfaction and productivity. These interactions can take the form of performance reviews or just more general updates about how things are going for the team member. Though the potential benefits of 1 on 1 meetings with employees are well known, actually reaching that potential is another story.

If you feel you’re not getting enough out of 1 on 1 meetings with employees or that they are an aspect of your role you could do with getting stronger on, follow these tips to help make them work for you.

  1. Change how meetings are seen

It’s understandable that neither the team member nor the PM have any interest in having a one-on-one if they are framed like a high school disciplinary meeting. These sit-downs should instead be seen as an excellent opportunity for relationship development as well as plotting the individual’s progression towards their career goals.

  1. Ask strategic questions

While it’s good to get status updates on current projects, 1 on 1 meetings with employees are also a great time to pick their brain on some of the bigger decisions facing your project. Every team member should have opinions on the project and this is a perfect opportunity to find them out.

  1. Start on a positive note

No matter what the intended content for the rest of the meeting, it is nearly always a good idea to start off in a positive demeanor. Compliment them on professional competency, like a successful presentation or the quality of their recent work. This helps to build a rapport and also allay any nerves the team member might have felt before coming in.

  1. Talk about their plans for their career

One of the best ways to motivate and show interest in your team is to help them along their own career path. This shows you are taking an interest in them beyond just what you are offering to the current project. Draw up a career progression plan, list educational opportunities and follow up as time progresses.

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  1. Prepare what you will talk about

Like most tasks in life, preparation can be the key to success with 1 on 1 meetings with staff. It doesn’t have to take long, just five minutes making some notes on the talking points you would like to bring up with them or you think may be of interest for their improvement.

  1. Give the meeting the priority it deserves

Your attitude to one-on-ones and your staff will easily be seen by how much respect you give these meetings. If you are prone to cancelling last-minute “because something more important came up”, if you set vague dates, e.g. “sometime after next Wednesday” or simply spend the whole meeting also checking your e-mails or tidying your desk, then it will be clear to everyone that you do not actually value that time. Block off the time you are setting aside for one-on-ones and make sure that you prioritize the meetings in your own mind as well.

  1. Show them you value them

Whether for performance reviews or status updates, one-on-ones are more personal than large group meetings. Don’t be afraid to use them to build bonds with your team, like by asking them what they did/will do on the weekend or taking an interest in their career progression.