When a new hire joins your team, kicking off your one-on-ones in the right way will help build the right foundation for your relationship with the new hire and steer your future one-on-ones.

Building a relationship is the most important factor in helping you engage your team members. When I say relationship, it doesn’t mean you have to be BFFs with your direct reports.

For an introverted person like me, just hearing the word “relationship” can feel draining, let alone building relationships with each and every one of your direct reports.

The key is to build a relationship with your team so that they can trust you. Having a trusting relationship is important as it allows your team to surface any issues that may be preventing them from delivering and trusting that there’s safety in bringing those issues to you.

You’ll also need to build this relationship so that when it comes time to give them constructive feedback, they will be able to take that feedback in the correct light.

Now, how do you do that?

Step 1: Schedule 1-hour long one-on-ones as a kickoff

Spend at least an hour with your new hire. Some folks will not need the full hour but for your first one-on-one, you’ll want to have enough time and not rush through the process. They’ll need to feel that they’re worth your time and that you’re here for them (and not rushing to meet someone else).

I also buffer a half-hour between the hour-long one-on-ones for notes taking, and in case it goes over time.

Step 2: Introduce yourself

An introduction here about yourself will be helpful to a new hire. Here are some questions to help you:

What is your background (which school, how you came into this role)?

This story is helpful to know where you’ve come from and if there’s any overlap between your direct report and you, for example, the same school or very similar backgrounds.

Why did you join this organization?

This is a rather important question. You want your new team members to feel your excitement for your role and for the future of the organization. People are inspired by inspired people. This is your opportunity to paint a compelling story as to your “why”. It could be the purpose-driven product, the people or the mission of the company etc.

Step 3: Get to know them

This is the part where you get to know them by asking a few questions. Here are some of my favourites:

  • What is your background or your career story?
  • Why did you join this organization?
  • What do you like about working here?
  • What are some things you feel can be improved here (team or company level)?
  • What are some things you feel you do very well?
  • What are some things you feel you need to improve?
  • What is a great day at work here looks like?
  • What is an awful day at work here looks like?
  • How do you like to receive praise (publicly, via email, privately etc)?
  • What are your career aspirations here with this organization and beyond?
  • How does supporting you as a manager look like?
  • How does not supporting you look like?

Easily organize your one-on-ones with your employees and direct reports

If you like this article, you might like my free resource to help you organize your one-on-ones.

Step 4: Working Agreement

Role and expectations

This is where I explain what I’m expecting in his/her role. Go over any policies like work from home policy etc.

On-boarding buddy and plan

I’ll also go over the on-boarding plan. I usually would have a buddy already assigned to work with the new hire, with a backlog of issues or project to ramp up new hire. At this point of our meeting, I’ll go over at a high-level our plan for the next few weeks to help ramp him/her up.

Meeting cadence

I would also check-in with them in terms of their preferred cadence for our one-on-ones. I have team members who prefer every 2-3 weeks or monthly. I have team members who prefer only afternoon meetings.

Depending on how many direct reports you have, I currently have about 20 so my cadence with them is about 3 weeks, with a few more often. I don’t recommend going beyond 4 weeks, that’s too long.

If a team member requests more than 4 weeks, state that you’d prefer 3 weeks to start and re-assess. Most often than not, they’ll get used to it.

My communication style

I like to talk about my communication style before the meeting is over. Some people are from companies that are very formal and my style is very relaxed and casual, so I like to include this to let them know right off the bat what my style is.

Some examples are:

How do they approach you with issues? Slack, come by your desk, email?

How do you like to communicate? Casual, serious?

What is the best way to get a hold of you? Schedule a meeting, swing by your desk?

By providing some of these answers to your team members can alleviate a lot of fears some people may have of their new manager.

You might be interested in How to Run a Working Agreement with Your Team.

Step 5: Take good notes

I prefer bringing a notebook and write down any notes during the one-on-one instead of bringing a laptop. I find having a laptop and typing on it during the entire one-on-one can make your direct report feel very impersonal.

Once the one-on-one concludes, I then transfer my notes digitally to a giant spreadsheet so that it will help me to plan our next one-on-one or if there are other insights that I would like to probe further next time.