Holding regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings isn’t just a “nice to have” management practice, it is an essential component of effective leadership and key to getting the right results from those you lead.

For many people, the current work environment has reduced the amount of one-on-one time with their manager. Many employees work remotely or do a hybrid work schedule now. The good news is that these meetings work just about as well over video conferences as they do in-person, and they are the best way to maintain accountable relationships.

Meetings are one of the most powerful levers at a leader’s disposal to influence others, and one-on-one meetings are the most potent and personal method. If those in leadership positions do not hold regular one-on-one meetings with the people who report to them, they are not accessing one of their greatest methods of influencing people and the organization they preside over.

What Are One-on-One Meetings?

First, let’s be clear on what they are not. One-on-one meetings are not a performance review. They are not a quarterly check-in. They are not a team meeting and they are not an unscheduled touch-point about day-to-day issues. I hear many managers say “I talk to the people who report to me just about every day. Why do I need to schedule a meeting with them?”

One-on-one meetings are as much for the employee’s benefit as they are for the manager. It is a dedicated time reserved for employees to get what they need from their manager in order to do their job well. But more than that, this one-on-one time is set aside for employees to talk about things that are important to them, such as how they are enjoying their work and how events in their life may be affecting their work.

Employees may be reluctant to bring up sensitive issues with their boss when their boss hasn’t dedicated specific time, and provided a safe environment, to communicate freely. This is why many managers are often blindsided when a staff member drops a letter of resignation on their desk. The great resignation is a real thing that leaders can avoid in many cases.

For managers, one-on-one meetings are prime time to exercise leadership. Leadership begins with building a relationship that goes beyond the formal employment relationship. Ultimately, the goal is to build trust so that an employee feels comfortable coming to you to tell you what’s working for them and what’s not, and so you can push them and stretch them to be their best. You can’t do that in group meetings and you can’t do that over email. The most powerful question a manager can ask here is “what can I do to help you be successful”. Remember, if your employees are successful, guess what, you as a manager or leader will be successful!

One-on-one meetings are a time for managers to provide coaching and support, and to provide each other with feedback. One-on-one meetings are reoccurring meetings held frequently, not monthly or quarterly. Research has shown that employee engagement (and performance) is highest when employees have weekly check-ins with their managers. If a manager has more direct reports than they can meet with for 30 minutes each week, they should reorganize their reporting structure. Both manager and employee engagement tend to decline with teams of over 10 people.

The benefits of one-on-one meetings are substantial for managers, employees, and the overall company. Some of these benefits are: building trust, providing a reliable communication structure, creating time for strategic discussions, establishing an accountability mechanism, making performance discussions ongoing, and mitigating risks. In short, one-on-one meetings are vital to helping those in leadership positions ensure that the work is being done well and that the person doing the work is doing well.