Remote work

A manager's guide to remote teamwork: Effective one-to-ones

March 27, 2020
If you only do one thing in 2020: Ask better questions to improve your one-to-ones!

See the full Manager's Remote Working Handbook here

Checking in with your employees one-on-one becomes paramount. You can no longer rely on those face-to-face moments in the office as signals of how they are doing so schedule regular one-to-ones with each of your direct reports.

Schedule regular one-to-ones

The cadence will vary depending on the nature of your work but you should have one-to-ones with your direct reports at least once per month. If you’ve only just made the switch to being a distributed team, start with a weekly structured 1-1 with each of your direct reports and then dial it back if you need to. Overcommunication breeds clarity before it breeds annoyance.

If you’ve already scheduled regular one-to-ones, well done! 👏

Co-create an agenda

It is more important than ever to have a clear agenda, created by both parties. Here is why:

  • Clarity equals efficiency. Having an agenda makes it clear what needs to be discussed and, when all points have been covered, makes it clear when the meeting can end.
  • Allowing your direct report to add to the agenda themselves ahead of the meeting means they’re more likely to bring up difficult topics or concerns. As a leader, these are the hardest to come by and consequently the most valuable.
  • It can be harder to ‘jump in’ to discuss something that’s on your mind on a video-call than face-to-face so having it written down means it’s more likely to get discussed.
  • Providing a structure to the conversation keeps things flowing more naturally.


CoachBot’s shared agendas make it quick and easy for both parties to have an input by considering what THEY want to get out of the conversation. Our smart tips feature also provides contextually relevant coaching to both parties based on what they’ve added to the agenda.


Step it up

Sometimes a quick status update is all you have time for during your one-to-ones but when you have the time, dig a little deeper for a more valuable meeting. Making time to discuss not just what they’re working on but also how they are feeling is an important way to build resilience in the team. If they feel supported by you, they’ll go the extra mile when needed.


CoachBot provides templates for specific types of one-to-ones. For example, if you’re new to remote work, here are 6 excellent talking points to make the transition as smooth as possible:

  1. What do you like most / least about working from home?
  2. What is your work setup like?
  3. What technology issues have you encountered?
  4. How do you disconnect at the end of the day or during breaks?
  5. How effective are our remote meetings (on a scale from 1-10) ?
  6. What new challenges have you faced compared to in the office?


If you don’t have access to CoachBot, here are some resources to help you have more meaningful conversations in your one-to-ones.

COMMUNICATION PATTERNS MATTER
Professor Alex Pentland of MIT’s Media Lab shows that 30-40% of performance can be explained by the patterns of communication within teams.
The most productive teams communicate frequently and equally between all members of the team.
The lowest performing teams communicate infrequently and in a way that excludes some members of the team.

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