The most important meeting on your calendar

Is it your weekly staff meeting or morning huddle? Your project status meeting? Ooooh, it must be the company all-hands meeting, right?


It’s your one-on-ones. That bi-weekly or monthly sit down with your manager.


Andy Grove (founder of Intel and its long time CEO) coined the term “managerial leverage”, which describes the multiplier effect managers have on the resources/teams/organizations under their supervision. One individual, with the proper combination of skill, experience and information can have outsized impact on the team she leads.

Nowhere else is this on display more that in 1:1s.

Given an hour together, an empathetic and engaged manager can get a comprehensive picture of where their teammate is at – how they’re feeling, what’s working for them, personal triumphs or challenges and how to help. This time can be used to further propel high flyers to even higher highs or can help re-position and re-energize colleagues who are encountering headwinds at work or elsewhere.

One. Hour. That’s all.

In addition, it grounds us in our humanity.

Too much of our day to day business is rooted in “achieving to plan” or making sure our margins are “up and to the right”, “shipping on time” or “maximizing the Net Promoter Score”. Laudable goals, with the recognition that organizations are composed of people. People with families, dreams, pain and emotion. While the business is set on achieving its goals, we must be aware of, and work within the foibles and strengths of the people who make up the tapestry of the organization itself.

And the interface between the individual and the firm? The manager. And the most effective tool they wield? The one-on-one.

Let’s look at the 1:1 from a couple of different perspectives.

Individual Contributor

As someone doing the work, you’ve got questions and concerns that are stirring in your mind:

  • How can I get better at what I’m doing?
  • Where is the organization going?
  • Am I being paid well?
  • My manager is doing a great/horrible job
  • How can I go faster?
  • My personal and work lives overlap, and I need help
  • I’m not engaged in my role

All of these serve as distractions from achieving mastery, autonomy and purpose in your position. Left to fester, the internal stress brought about by the above can serve to undermine your personal well-being and productivity, hurting performance.

Any well-intentionned leader is eager to address the above and goes out of their way to make you feel comfortable doing so. Is your manager a servant leader?


Your one-on-one time with direct reports should be spent really diving in to how they’re feeling.

Status reports are OK, but you’re really trying to uncover where they’re at.

Do they like their job? Are they challenged enough? Are they happy with their pay? What frustrates them? What’s holding them back?

The idea is to demonstrate empathy and connect on a very basic level.

Pierce through the bullshit and establish a very basic level of trust.

Really show that their well being is super important to you. (A little tip: you have to honestly and wholeheartedly believe AND wear this. All. the. time.)

In addition, seek feedback on how you’re doing. Don’t couch this as a line item to check off during your one-on-one. This should be something you earnestly look for and wish to improve on.


What else? How do you make your 1:1s awesome?

Published by

Darin Herle

I call Victoria BC home, am a proud father of 2 and husband to 1. Trackmeet co-founder, Cub Scout leader and baseball fan.

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