1-on-1 meetings are not my strength. For me, it's a direct relationship: the larger the crowd, the easier it is. 1-on-1 is the smallest, and worst, end of that equation.
It's so easy to take the measure of a crowd—what they respond to (good or bad), what kind of questions they ask, which songs they seem to like the most, whether they laugh or not, what bores them, etc. It's not a conscious thing for me. It's almost like hypnotism. I can feel—which I know means see and hear—when people in the crowd lean in, when the line goes taut and it's time to pull, when the line goes limp and it's time to cast again. It's difficult and I get nervous, but it's so much fun, and it doesn't feel like effort in the breach.
1-on-1 meetings are like a sandwich with extra stress hormones. Everything that makes speaking to a crowd easy—the collective hum, the collective silence, the collective movement—has been reduced to one input. I can imagine that this should be easy, but it's not—and moreover, because I expect that it should be easy and it's not, then there's the added panicfrustration caused by not being able to figure it out.
Mind you—I think they're a good format, and quite helpful, and I don't avoid them. (I have no employees that report to me, so it would be a matter of avoiding The Boss.) But. They're not easy. That's all about formal 1-on-1 meetings. Informal 1-on-1 meetings are also not that easy.
I know the solution. It's horrifying. And not surprising. The solution is to do it more often.
I'm also wondering about who does it best. Where do the best 1-on-1 meetings happen? (And what is "best"?) The context I'm thinking of is business, between the manager and the employee. But other fields seem like they might hold some keys to doing it well: doctors, salespeople, journalists, diplomats, 911 operators. There might be a vein to mine for approaches.
Some articles I found in the meantime:
- Rebecca Knight. "How to Make Your One-on-Ones with Employees More Productive". Harvard Business Review (2016-08-08).
- Todd Davis. "1-on-1 Meetings Are the Key to Great Leadership. Here's How to Do Them Right". Entrepreneur (2019-11-22).
- Erin Urban. "Why Most 1:1 Meetings Are A Waste of Time, And What To Do Instead". Forbes (2019-05-23).
- Julia Austin. "Master the One-on-One Meeting". Harvard Business School Working Knowledge (2016-08-22).
- Tom Skiba. "Your one-on-one meetings are broken. Here’s how to fix them". Fast Company (2019-12-03).