4 Excuses for Skipping One-on-Ones

Do you have regular one-on-ones with your direct reports? If not, you should start. Like immediately! One-on-ones are essential for leaders to have with their employees for so many reasons. And if you’re already thinking of reasons why you don’t or can’t have them, here four of the most common excuses used to avoid one-on-ones, and why leaders should stop using them, because we all hate excuses… right?

  1.  I’m too busy. Really, who isn’t busy these days? If you are a leader, time with your people should be a significant part of how you spend your week. Other things can be considered busy, but time with your team isn’t busy work.
  2. We already talk all the time. That’s great, because some leaders rarely speak with their direct reports. Still, sporadic interactions are not the same as dedicated one-on-one time.
  3. We meet as a team. Again, that’s great. But, your team is made up of individuals, and each of those unique individuals needs to be led differently by you. Team meetings shouldn’t replace set-aside one-on-one time.
  4. It’s a waste of my/my employee’s time. If one-on-ones feel like a waste to either you or your employee, it’s time for a reminder of the purpose of one-on-ones and what you should both be accomplishing in those regular meetings. It’s your responsibility to make sure it’s not a waste.

What to include in your one-on-ones:

  1. Get project/progress updates: Have your employee share their top priorities. Where are they on each of those? Are they progressing as planned? What do they need from you? It’s okay to let them drive the agenda.
  2. Problem solve together: What are their roadblocks or holdups? What challenges do you need to talk through together?
  3. Discuss the bigger picture: What’s on the horizon? What’s going on organizationally that will soon impact the team or your direct report? How will you rely on your teammate, and what information needs to be shared with the rest of the team?
  4. Give feedback: How are they doing? What are some wins? What areas do they need to continue focusing on?
  5. Share, and ask about them. I know this last point makes many “head driven” leaders nervous, but most employees want to know that their leader cares, not just about their work product, but about them as individuals. You don’t have to share your deepest secrets (actually, you probably shouldn’t!) but sharing a bit about yourself and learning more about your teammates and their own lives will only help you connect with and lead them better. The more you work together, the more this will happen naturally.

You won’t necessarily cover all four areas in every one-on-one. Some weeks you might spend an entire hour discussing a particular challenge, while other times you’ll spend your time together discussing the bigger picture. The point is to use your regular one-on-ones to support, coach, and connect with each person on your team.


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