11 Actionable Tactics for Running Your Next 121 Meeting

An effective 121 meeting is just as much about how you behave as it is what you talk about. You need to treat 121 meetings with the level of respect and importance that they deserve. After all, they will feel very important to your team members, you should behave accordingly as a result of this. Not just this, but there are some fundamental points that you need to cover in terms of logistics which can ensure that your meetings run smoothly and effectively.

Related: check out this simple, effective agenda for your next 121 meeting.

Let’s start with some key behaviours that you should seek to embrace as a manager that will not only improve the outputs of your meetings, but also set a great example for your team members to follow.

7 Behaviours to embrace in your next 121 meeting

Let’s take a look at a few key principles that you need to keep in mind when running 121 meetings.

Be present

When you’re in the room, be in the room with the team member and give them your full attention. It’s their time, not yours. If you are (or appear) to be distracted during the meeting, they will notice and wonder what you view as more important than their 121 meeting time.

Be prepared

Nothing damages trust or your relationship with them as much as arriving to a 121 meeting clearly having not prepared. Take the time to plan each 121, especially 121s where you focus on someone’s progression and their quarterly or annual reviews.

Be curious

During the meetings, don’t just reel off each agenda point or your pre-prepared questions. Respond to the answers and be curious about the answers and your team members. Show curiosity for their story and learn as much about them as you can.

Be positive

Even when conversations are hard and challenging, try to remain positive and not get sucked into a spiral of negativity. It’s important to maintain perspective and not let negativity bias take over your mindset.

Don’t cancel unless there is nothing to discuss

Try to avoid cancelling 121 meetings unless there is nothing to discuss, which should only really apply to the odd workload meeting.

Ask informal questions at the start or end

Don’t be afraid to make some valuable small talk or chatter about non-work stuff at the beginning or end of the 121. Ask how their weekend was, what the plans for their upcoming holiday are etc.

Frame meetings as productive time

Many of us can fall into the trap of thinking that meetings aren’t “real work”. Do your best to avoid this yourself and also frame 121 meetings as productive time.

4 Logistical points of effective 121s

Finally, let’s touch upon the logistics of an effective 121 meeting. There are a few basic things that may seem small, but they can be important.

Have an agenda

Part of being prepared and showing that the meeting is important is having an agenda which you share in advance. Above, we’re talked through some example agendas that give you a good starting point for this. Whether you use these or not, you should take time to prepare an agenda for each 121 meeting to ensure that it runs as effectively as possible.

Stay on track but know when to deviate

Try to stick to your agenda but don’t be afraid to deviate if it seems appropriate to. For example, if your team member brings up a topic that is troubling them and they clearly want some help with it, yet it’s not on the agenda, it’s completely fine to step outside of the agenda.

Be on time

Remember, you set the standard in your team. If you are late, you’re telling your team member that it’s fine to be late to meetings, even 121 meetings which are important.

Keep a note of actions and email them

There are few better ways to encourage accountability with your team members than noting actions during a meeting and then following up on them afterwards. Make sure that you do this during every meeting and then start the following meeting by briefly discussing those actions that you set last time. 

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