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Four Must Haves for One on Ones with Employees

{ 10 comments… add one }

It is still surprising to hear about a company that does annual performance reviews -  annually. I worked for such a company a little while back. We had a small dedicated HR department and a CEO that stressed the annual performance review each year. The problem was they were only once a year. I have worked with other companies in which they were
Employee1 only twice a year. Performance reviews should be all year. They should be a regular part of every one on one with employees. Here are four "must haves" for your one on ones that will help improve performance all year. They are simple, but very effective.

1) Schedule regular one on ones. Duh, right? But are you doing them? Nothing is learned until you are doing it. My best advice here is to go into your calendar application and set up 30 minute+ blocks of time for one on ones every two weeks or at least once a month. Make sure a calendar invite goes out to each employee as well so it is on their calendar.

2) Create folders. Create a folder for each employee with your first one on one agenda that both you and the employee agree to. At the top of every agenda should be the goals of the employee. (see "The Three Questions Leaders Should Ask Themselves about Employee Goals" by clicking here). Make notes on the agenda as you have your one on one. When done with the one on one, insert the new agenda with its notes into the folder and file it away. This is what some would call being organized (wink and a smile).

3) Review measurable goals and improve performance. Each one on one review the progress of each goal the employee has set. If he or she has fallen short, then simply ask them to send you in the next one or two days the two or three things they will do differently to ensure adequate performance of the goal. When you receive the things the employee will do differently, then pull out the folder and make a note of it inside. Another tip on how to be organized (another wink and a smile).

4) Follow up. At the next one on one pull out the employee's folder. Ask him or her what they did to improve the performance and what difference it made. Then listen and then make suggestions.

Once a manager starts holding regular one on ones with employees, creates plans to improve performance and follow up – most employees will begin to expect it and do something about it. And one of the best things is their jaw won't hit the floor when you talk to them about their performance at the end of the year.


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  • Lawrence Meadows July 22, 2010, 6:28 am

    For most of the last 23 years that is all I have seen. And the appraisals I have received alot of the time appeared to have been rushed through, so that my immediate manager could get it done. Generally it is supposed to be associated with merit increases, but raises have become more of a cost of living increase apposed to merit increases. I have worked in the field service industry for a fortune 500 company, a mid sized company, and recently I joined a start up company and hope to create a change. I have read about and tried to get my previous management to implament another process. My experiance has been, every company is trying to do more with less and in doing so, everyone including the supervisors or managers have little time to accomplish all the tasks that have been assigned, As a satalite field service individual I seldom work with an assoicate, and even less see or speak to my manager. The brief time that I worked in a shop / manufacturing environment (9 months about 3 years ago) They still preformed annual reviews. My wife’s company also does annual reviews and she is an office manager for a logistic coordination company. Prior to that she wourked in county government and they were still preforming annual reviews. In the management courses I have taken they list part of the concern is the cost associated with doing more reviews though out the year. Time assoicated for both the manager and the employee to complete the review process. The expense increases with the # of employees that they manage. I personally would like to see the a 360 review process adopted and am working to instill it with in my present employer.

  • Mike Rogers July 22, 2010, 6:29 am

    Thanks Lawrence. Your story unfortunately is fairly common : ( But I am glad to hear you are and have tried to change things. Good luck.

  • David Helms July 22, 2010, 9:07 am

    Mike’s comments regarding performance evaluation increments are on target. As a matter of fact, we need to change the mindset regarding the “appraisal” and think of it as a regular part of the management process. This will take the dread out of performance evaluation time for both manager and report along with greatly enhancing the opportunities for a team member to succeed.

  • shep July 23, 2010, 5:04 pm

    My experience is that all this HR stuff is no substitute for common sense… and in fact it would not even be needed if there was enough common sense to go around.
    By the time you follow the typical fortune 500 best practices for managing employees.. you end up just playing a documentation game.. despite the good intentions.

  • Wayne Stewart July 24, 2010, 3:45 pm

    Monthly one on one’s always made me weak. I would always leave them needing a nap. As a top performer for a couple of Fortune 50 companies, I craved real leadership instead of management. Managers were always 3 steps behind and constantly under pressure from clueless executives to get numbers without any consideration of what it would take to deliver them. The result was the unseen costs were simply heaped on the front line as managers and executives went golfing and drinking.
    I think as a society we have moved away from a cooperative long term strategy based on individual empowerment, freedom and responsibility to an oppportunistic short term strategy in just about every aspect of business all under the guise of accountability.
    Let’s have managers and executives alike roll up their sleeves and lead by example rather than employing cheap, imbecilic manipulation methods in feeble attempts to improve performance. More inspiration and less measurement.

  • Mike Rogers July 24, 2010, 4:45 pm

    Thanks for your comments Wayne, and I agree. But top performers wouldn’t need this approach. They need a lot less management and more inspiration. Ideally you get a team to the point where very little management is required. But it takes management to get to that place.
    And I am all for leaders leading by example. It’s too bad your experience with top executives has been so negative. I have actually had some pretty good leaders in my past, not all, but most.

  • Cynitra Anderson August 14, 2010, 2:27 pm

    I agree with quarterly performance review versus once a year…it is more effective and efficient.

  • Coach Poppy March 8, 2011, 12:07 am

    You might not be able to control the occasions, but you’ll be able to compose your response. It is possible to turn your pain into profanity -or into poetry. The option is as much as you. You may well not have selected your hard time, but it is possible to pick how you will react to it.

  • emily b June 19, 2012, 1:42 am

    Its True.
    This is exactly what is happening in our firm. We have six projects to finish by the end of August, that started this February, we do meet every Tuesday,In our meeting we do progress review, followups and set weekly target. We are doing well now and our reports are timely.
    You have to meet a target? Read this article.
    Thanks Mike.

  • Mike Rogers July 3, 2012, 2:53 pm

    Thank you Emily. I appreciate the comments and report on how you are doing. I am glad things are going well.


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