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In this blog post, I'd like to share my own one-on-one practice based on challenges in real life.

Successful one-on-one is the most powerful management multi-tool for a manager to facilitate the followings:

  • Communicating team/company strategy

  • Building a trusting relationship

  • Staying informed and aligned

  • Providing mutual feedback to help each other grow

  • Addressing topics prone to getting lost in the shuffle (e.g., career development)


The major one-on-one challenges faced are below, I come up with these ideas while dealing with such challenges.

  1. Team member is not well prepared for one-on-ones.

  2. Team member is not comfortable to share real feelings.

  3. No follow up after one-on-ones.


Team member is not well prepared for one-on-ones.

In every team, there are team members who get them very prepared, while some are not well prepared.

  1. Since most managers set up the one-on-ones, subconsciously, team member thinks he/she should listen rather than talk. So I ask the team member to setup one-on-ones instead of me in each quarter, with this, subconsciously team member thinks he/she need to conduct the one-on-ones and be better prepared. This small change works very well in my own practice.

  2. Predefine a one-on-one agenda with fixed topics + free discussion, this makes sure mandatory topics(performance review/ define goal and so on) to be covered, and also gives the flexibility to cover other free topics.

Team member is not comfortable to share real feedback.

A one-on-one is invaluable, sacred time to uncover the truth of how a team member is actually feeling. Team member is not willing to share real feedback, mainly because he/she doesn't believe sharing real feedback would make a change. If anything, he/she could more easily imagine that he/she’d provoke a negative reaction from the manager. Telling him the truth just didn’t seem worth it. To deal with this, the practice is as simple as it is. Be transparent and take constructive reaction. Without transparency and constructive reactions, I don't see a chance to make a change.

  1. Be transparent before asking others do. Give transparent feedback to team member before asking for feedback, especially for giving negative feedback. I learned that most of the misunderstanding and lack of trust is caused by missing transparency. To show transparency, a leader must communicate honestly and quickly. In some cases, delayed information can be just as damaging as wrong information.

  2. Transparency earns Empathy. I handled quite some cases, although transparency doesn't directly make everyone happy and get issue resolved. It does promote trust and make people understand each other, which helps the issue to be resolved faster and easier.

  3. Take constructive reaction. Make changes based on team member's feedback. It is true that taking reaction causes a lot of effort, while a manager has some many items in his agenda. However, if a manager can't put people as priority one in his/her agenda, it is also fair that his/her can't expect too much from the team feedback.

No follow up after one-on-ones.

It happens sometime the team member forgot what was discussed and defined in previous one-on-one, so make sure to do notes of important agreements, follow-ups and action items, share them with mail afterwards, and put them in the agenda of next one-on-one.


Thank you for reading. I Hope this will be helpful. Please let me know if any questions or experience you'd like to share:)