Team Meetings Are Not a Substitute for One-on-Ones

I am often asked, "What about team meetings? You put so much focus on one-on-one meetings between managers and employees. When is it OK to substitute team meetings for one-on-ones?"

First, team meetings are never substitute for one-on-ones. There's no place to hide when the manager is looking one employee in the eye, talking about expectations, asking for an account of performance, going over work product, or providing feedback.

In a team meeting, it's too easy for an individual employee to hide. Managers tell me all the time about that team meeting where you want to shine a bright light on Mr. Blue, the employee who has been coming in late and taking too many long breaks. Everybody is there for the weekly team meeting and you announce, "We have to stop coming in late. We have to start coming in on time. And we have to stop taking such long breaks. We have to stop taking so many breaks. Remember, you get two ten minute breaks. And ten minutes means ten minutes." Most of your employees are sitting there thinking, "What is he talking about? I come in early every day and I hardly ever take breaks." But the one employee you are really talking to is looking at his watch thinking, "Come on already. Wrap it up... I've got to take my break."

Remember, every person is different. Why you talk to one person is different from why you have to talk to another. What you need to talk about is different. How? When? And where? It's a lot harder to customize your approach to managing every employee in the context of team meetings.

Team meetings are ideal when you have information that you want to impart in the same way to the whole team at once.

Team meetings are also called for when you have a number of people working so interdependently that they all need to hear what you are saying to each person; they all need to know what each person is saying to you; and they all need each person to hear their own back and forth with you.

Sometimes a team meeting is indicated, even if it's not optimal, because you have so many people to manage and a lot of the information that you need to communicate does overlap, even if not perfectly.

Just don't fool yourself: The team meeting is a totally different animal than the one-one-one.