The optimal frequency of 1 on 1 meetings is similar to wondering the optimal frequency of date nights you should go on with your significant other. Everyone wants to do them, says they do them, but when they look at the frequency and hard facts, it’s not as much as they would like. When to have 1 on 1 meetings is not as complex as a personal relationship but hard to execute nonetheless.
That is why today we’re bringing in the love, I mean management doctors. That’s right. Move over “Dear Abby” and come on in Dr. Lemkin, Dr. Turnbull, and many others with their insight on when to have 1 on 1 meetings.
With all of the buzz around 1 on 1 meetings, it’s no longer a surprise when managers schedule time on their calendars with every direct report. This is now the norm.
The frequency is still a large and looming question that depends on the leaders, team, and many more factors.
Below, great minds in business and leadership answer this question. Enjoy the following answers for 4 experts who’ve been there and executed thousands of 1 on 1 meetings.
When to Have 1 on 1 Meetings?
Optimal Frequency of 1 on 1 Meetings According to Jason Lemkin: Every 2 Weeks, At least
Jason Lemkin is the godfather of SaaS. He’s not only been in the trenches and built an incredibly successful company, he’s also developed the most recognizable and “go-to” community when talking SaaS. He’s been there done that, continues to do it, and plans to do more. Read SaaStr to get a glimpse.
Lemkin on when to have 1 on 1 meetings:
“Then second, find a way to do 1-on-1s with each VP and direct report. I know you do not have time for this. But, remember, it’s not about you. Your VPs and reports need an unstructured time with you, at least every 2 weeks, where they can provide updates. Vent. Share their fears and concerns. Their anxieties. And you can help them. Pump them up. Or just be their psychiatrist, sometimes.
You won’t learn a lot from these conversations either, per se. Not from the facts. But you’ll learn what your team needs help with to do Even Better.”
Alex Turnbull: Founder of GrooveHQ, Prolific Blogger, On the Path to $500k MRR
Optimal Frequency of 1 on 1 Meetings According to Alex Turnbull: Every 2 Weeks
Admittedly, I’ve “borrowed” a lot of Alex’s style and frequency when it comes to content. Every Thursday I anxiously await the email from him on his journey to $500,000 MRR. I love it. He runs his business with a pragmatic mindset any manager or entrepreneur can learn from. Of course he does 1 on 1’s, according to him, it saved his business.
Turnbull on When to Have 1 on 1 Meetings:
“Every two weeks, I’d block off eight hours to check in with everyone on the team. We only talked briefly about what they were working on; the majority of each call was spent on how they’re feeling about Groove, the team, what challenges they saw us facing, how they felt about being a part of the team, and my performance as their CEO.
Eight hours is not a small investment, but it’s proven to be one of the most valuable uses of my time. The benefits have been tremendous, and I wish badly that I had been doing these from day one.”
Andy Grove: Former CEO of Intel
Optimal Frequency of 1 on 1 Meetings According to Andy Grove: Once a Week to Once a Month
High Output Management is beyond a cult classic. It’s arguably one of the most defining management books written. Andy Grove has a legion of fans and no one more pronounced than Ben Horowitz – fame entrepreneur and venture capitalist. Watch this 23 minute video honoring Andy Grove on Ben’s blog: The Man Who Built Silicon Valley: A Tribute to Andy Grove.
Andy Grove on when to have 1 on 1 meetings:
“How often should you do one-on-ones? Or put another way, how do you decide how often somebody needs such a meeting? The answer is the job- or task-relevant maturity of each your subordinates. In other words, how much experience does a given subordinate have with the specific task at hand? This is not the same as the experience he has in general or how old he is. The most effective management style in the a specific instance varies from very close to very loose supervision as a subordinate’s task maturity increases. Accordingly, you should have one on ones frequently (for example, once a week) with a subordinate who is inexperienced in a specific situation and less frequently (perhaps once every few weeks) with an experienced veteran.”
Source: High Output Management
Mark Horstman and Mike Auzenne: Co-Founders of Manager Tools (a community of 90,000 managers learning from Mike and Mark’s weekly podcast):
Optimal Frequency of 1 on 1 Meetings According to Mike and Mark of Manager Tools: Weekly…but only if they are scheduled on the calendar.
Starting the at 20:30 minute of this podcast episode of Manager Tools, Mike and Mark share the following:
“So let’s talk about when because I know some people are thinking Mike, they’re going ‘well okay, I want to build a relationship, I do Mark, I do’ which by the way is translation for no, I don’t, but I know I have to do something. So let’s try to do it monthly.’ Well I’m going to set that aside for a minute because in the last 20 years for refining this we’ve learned something that, I’m not going to tell you that doing the monthly is unimportant, we’ve got to address that, but more importantly than the period, the interval, we recommend weekly, it’s the second most important thing we have to say about 1 on 1’s. The most important thing about the interval of your 1 on 1’s or the timing or the scheduling of your 1 on 1’s is that they are scheduled. This is an enormous factor. Most people would say ‘oh let’s talk about this weekly’ and I say ‘no, before we talk weekly, let’s talk schedules.’ I would rather you scheduled your 1 on 1’s than you had 1 on 1’s almost every week that were unscheduled and I’ll tell you why.
The core value of 1 on 1’s with your directs is saying ‘you’re always going to have time with me, I’m always going to be investing in the relationship.’ If you don’t schedule your 1 on 1’s, you are saying to your people, ‘this might be important that week, you might be a priority this week, that time might be valuable, I don’t know, let’s play loosey goosey with it and play it by ear, we’ll see how things go. The data on this are overwhelming. Managers who schedule 1 on 1’s are 80% and above in terms of completion of 1 on 1 meetings. Managers who don’t tend to fall in the 50% range.’”
How to Apply This To Your Management Skill Set
Successful managers from all company sizes schedule 1 on 1’s as a key management practice to build a quality relationship and effectively communicate with their rep. This post will prod you to honestly assess the quality of 1 on 1’s with every direct report. Having each one on the calendar and at least 30 minutes is the best practice, reminded by some of the most successful managers out there.