· 2 mins · Management Skills

How to stop one-on-ones from turning into status updates

4 ways to stop the most important meetings with your team from being project reports.

Avatar of Shannon Maloney Shannon Maloney

It’s easy to fall into the status update trap. You know you’re in the danger zone when 90% of your agenda is filled with:

  1. What did you work on last week?
  2. What projects are you working on now?
  3. Where are we at with X?

We recently surveyed over 200 managers on how they run one-on-ones and over 50% responded that the purpose of one-on-ones is a “status update.”

One-on-ones are a dedicated space and time for managers and employees to discuss growth, development, goals and blockers. Status updates are a crutch. It’s much easier to focus on the status of work than on the individual (for both managers and employees).

“If you are not careful, 1:1s can end up being status updates. Or the manager can take over the meeting. This isn’t their purpose. It’s important to make sure the employee and their needs stay front and centre.”

-Bronwyn Smith, VP of Business Operations, Influitive

How to break the “status update” cycle

1. Reset expectations

The easiest way to refresh your one-on-one meetings is to address the issue head-on. “Hey, it feels like our one-on-ones have turned more into status updates than us talking about your growth and development. Do you agree?” This doesn’t mean you never talk about projects with your employees, it just means those conversations happen outside of your one-on-ones.

2. “Park” project conversations for a separate meeting

Status updates: Meet the parking lot. 🚘 When conversations start veering towards project reports, simply park the conversation and set up a meeting to discuss it at a later time.

3. Avoid these questions

  1. What did you work on last week?
  2. What are you working on this week?
  3. What’s the status of X project?
  4. Where are we at with X?
  5. How much work do you have left on X?
  6. When will we be ready to ship X?

4. Ask these questions instead

  1. How would you prefer I give feedback on your work?
  2. Do you feel like I’m too involved or not involved enough in your day-to-day work?
  3. How are you feeling about the projects you’re working on?
  4. What roadblocks are preventing you from doing your best work?
  5. Would it be helpful to have a quick scrum or check-in to talk specifically about projects weekly or bi-weekly?
  6. Do you feel like you have clarity on the strategy behind some of the projects you’re working on?

Need more inspiration? Check out 121 more one-on-one meeting questions.

Remember: One-on-ones are not for managers. One-on-ones are time for the employees. It means managers shouldn’t be using this time to go on fact-finding missions or to catch up on work they feel they’re not in the loop on. Being a great manager is using this weekly or bi-weekly time to have conversations that are for your employees.

What you should do next

Now that you've read this article, here are some things you should do:

  1. Check out our YouTube channel for more tips on management skills and team building.
  2. Learn more about Hypercontext and how it can help you run a high performing org.
  3. If you found this article helpful, please share it with others on Linkedin or X (Twitter)
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