How to Master the Meeting That Matters Most

 Many daily business meetings are unproductive or unnecessary, and despite the best efforts of companies like Shopify and others to rein them in they stubbornly remain, like unsightly blemishes in our modern workplace.

But there’s one type of meeting that matters, one that nobody ducks out of or leaves the camera off — the one-on-one. With year-end performance reviews approaching, you’re probably mulling what to say to your direct reports, and likewise to your own boss. There’s a lot on the line in these tete-a-tetes: Your annual bonus, next year’s big projects, and even your career trajectory are up for debate. And it’s not just about you — surveys show that both bosses and staff alike say one-on-ones can positively impact a whole team’s performance.

And yet, we’re screwing up these meetings as well, according to Steven Rogelberg, a professor of organizational science, psychology, and management at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte who’s been researching meetings for two decades. Nearly half of the hundreds of millions of one-on-ones that take place daily worldwide each year are suboptimal, Rogelberg says, and little has been done about it, so improving them is the focus of his upcoming book.

“If you have a bad meeting, sure, it’s draining,” he says. “But if a one-on-one is not good, you question your place in the organization. When they are properly done, it’s magical. It’s so important to get it right.”

For Rogelberg, who previously found that useless meetings cost big companies $100 million a year, a 1:1 is when a manager’s strengths and weaknesses are laid bare. Typically, though, it’s more of the latter. For example: The more the boss talks, the more a 1:1 will fall into a “status update trap,” or a micromanaging session, and the worse it will go.

Higher-Ups Want the Most Time With Their Boss

A survey of 2585 workers found senior people wanted more feedback

Source: Steven Rogelberg

Even kicking off a 1:1 with a perfunctory “How are you doing?” can be a mistake, as your counterpart will deflect that with pleasantries. Instead, ask how they are doing on a scale of one to 10, which gives you some data to dig into and can provide the vulnerability necessary to have a richer conversation.

Rogelberg studied about 50 companies for the book, including PepsiCo, Meta, Deloitte, Google, Marriott and Bank of America.

Interestingly (at least to me), Rogelberg’s research found that entry-level employees wanted the least amount of face time with their boss. I thought less-experienced workers would be the most desirous of feedback, but actually it’s senior mangers who prefer to have more 1:1s. Why? “Because they know how critical one-on-ones are to their success,” Rogelberg says.

The question we’re all wondering amid the ongoing return-to-office battles is — is it better to commute in to have that annual performance review, or can we do it remotely? Rogelberg is surprisingly agnostic here, saying he’s found no meaningful difference thus far in his research. Whatever location you choose, though, make sure the other side of the one-on-one is on board with it.

The key to a great performance review is no surprises. Here are a few other tips from the meeting maestro:

  • Go beyond the performance metrics and discuss the “why”: barriers to success and the support needed.
  • Don’t just ask your boss to “fix this for me.” Say instead, “Provide me with the resources I need to do this myself.”
  • If you do have to cancel a 1:1, reschedule it soon or your colleague will feed devalued.


"For years, HR chiefs wanted a voice. Now corporations are saying, 'You have it. Use it.' CEOs live in an echo chamber, they don't hear bad news. It's the HR chief's job to hold a mirror to leadership and hold them accountable."
Dan Kaplan
Senior client partner, Korn Ferry CHRO practice

By the Numbers

Half of Office Desks Get Used for Less Than One Hour Per Day

A survey from workplace sensor provider XYSense found low usage

Source: XYSense Workplace Utilization Index Q3 2023


Shady subprime home loans sparked the 2008 world financial crisis. But when Congress created guardrails to prevent that from happening again, car dealers found an exemption, allowing them to extend risky loans to borrowers with poor credit who often default and lose their vehicles. It’s a Big Take story that’s worth your time.

Oil futures fell sharply Wednesday after reports said the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies delayed a meeting previously set for Sunday amid a dispute over production levels.

Traders were also awaiting data on U.S. inventories after industry figures showed a large rise in crude inventories.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post