6 Tips for Productive Remote 1-on-1 Meetings with Team Members

By MBO Partners | December 13, 2023

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Key Points

One-on-one meetings with team members can be highly productive.

In today’s workplace, it’s likely that some, if not all, of your 1-on-1s will be remote.

These tips apply to any 1-on-1 meeting, and are especially important for remote meetings.

One-on-one meetings are a staple of team management. A dedicated, private conversation between manager and team member, this kind of meeting can be highly productive.

In today’s workplace, it’s likely that some, if not all, of your 1-on-1s will be remote. While the fundamentals are the same, this type of meeting lacks the shared physical surroundings and many of the nonverbal cues of an in-person type. To make up for some of this, it’s best for remote 1-on-1s to be video-based.

The frequency and duration of your remote 1-on-1 meetings depends on you, your team, and the project. The best frequency is “regular,” which could be weekly, biweekly, or monthly (which is the minimum).

There’s no set best practice for meeting length. You’re most likely to get best results by determining meeting length on a case-by-case basis.  Rather than set a standard duration, think about the person you’re meeting with and what needs to be discussed. You may need a 10-minute check-in with one team member, while 45 minutes with another may be needed to make sure all bases are covered. The bottom line: Schedule the meeting for as long as needed, but no longer.

6 Tips for Productive Remote 1-on-1s

While these tips are applicable to any type of 1-on-1, they are especially critical for a remote setting.

1. Make Sure Everyone Knows What to Expect

Clearly convey the purpose of your 1-on-1s and how team members can benefit from them. Let them know:

  • They will need to prepare ahead of time using the agenda outline
  • The platform you will use for the meetings so they can make sure it’s working prior to meeting
  • This is the time to get any coaching, mentoring, or clarification needed from you
  • There will be agreed-upon actions (for them and for you) the come out of the meeting
  • Each meeting will be recorded and made available to the relevant team member for a specified length of time

2. Establish a Simple Agenda

While your 1-on-1s are great for relationship building, especially with remote team members, and the conversation needs to be two-way, the focus is on being productive. This is an example of an agenda to share with the team:

  • Questions from me
  • Questions from you
  • Discussion
  • Planned actions

This simple agenda will help cover all the main areas. You can ask for whatever information you need from the team member and, conversely, they can ask you questions. Discussion may ensue from one or more of these questions, or it may be a mentoring conversation. Before ending the meeting, agree on planned actions to be taken either by you or the team member and when those actions will be complete.

3. Prepare

Make sure you invest time in preparing for a 1-on-1. What do you need to know from this team member? Is there anything you need to let them know? Tailor your preparation for each person so that you can make the most of the conversation.

4. Start and End on Time

This may seem obvious, but it can be a challenge for some managers. Be sure you prioritize your 1-on-1 so that you will be on time. Also, end on time or, if you mutually agree, extend the meeting if discussion warrants it. This practice conveys respect for the value of the team member’s time, and of the team member themselves.

5. Listen

Again, this may seem obvious, but it needs to be kept in mind especially in a remote setting. Focus on your conversation, ask questions to clarify or get more detail, and use what you’ve heard to help determine the actions that come out of the meeting.

6. Follow Through

Follow up on the actions you and your team member have agreed upon. Check on the status of their action items, and if you are on the line for something, let them know where it stands.

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