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Your one-on-one meetings are broken. Here’s how to fix them

Have you started to feel like your regular check-ins are a waste of time?

Source | | TOM SKIBA

Managers, have you started to feel like one-on-ones with your reports are an enormous waste of time?

If you answered yes, chances are that they feel the same way. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Done right, one-on-ones can be one of the most valuable and meaningful meetings of the week—for both you and for the person reporting to you. Getting there starts by dropping the formality, and shifting from status updates or harping on small, technical mistakes and instead focusing on collaborative experimentation.

I’m an organizational psychologist with expertise in the assessment and development of effective leadership across organizations. As a member of Humu’s People Science team, I apply my background to the workplace using micro-interventions (which we call nudges) to boost leadership effectiveness and organizational trust. That includes helping managers empower and mentor their teams. Based on my experience, here are five scientifically backed ways to make the most from one-on-one meetings:


As a leader, you set the tone for the meeting. Make it a point to create an environment in which each team member feels safe being genuine. One way to do this is to incorporate open conversations that help you get to know each other beyond your work roles and responsibilities.

To build closer connections, make your one-on-ones walking meetings from time to time. Or have a coffee at a nearby café. Clarify that the purpose is largely social and that you’d love to catch up on what’s going on with them. Switching up your regular one-on-ones routine can increase employees’ comfort levels and give them a better chance of opening up.

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