Conducting Effective One-On-One Meetings With Your Executive Direct Reports

Posted on

Some executives assume that they don’t need to have regular one-on-one meetings with their executive direct reports.  The idea that such meetings aren’t really necessary “at our level” is short-sighted.  What is not necessary is using the same one-on-one framework that you’d use if your direct reports were front-line staff.  What is necessary is a framework more appropriate to the needs of an executive and his or her direct reports.

I highly recommend a weekly one-on-one with each of your executive direct reports (we’ll simply call them “managers” for this post), being flexible when needed.  In addition to gaining valuable information that you need in order to be effective in your job, these meetings are a valuable way to help your managers understand the nature of your job and what you need in order to be successful.  By doing this, you’ll not only get valuable information that you need, but you’ll be grooming your managers as part of your own succession planning.

Here’s the agenda I recommend, in this specific order (I’ll explain why shortly):

  1. Needs: How can I help you?  What do you need from me in order to do your job?
  2. Updates: Make me smarter.  What do you know that I need to know?
  3. Professional Development: How can we use opportunities in your current role to help you develop for your desired future role?


One of the three things that leaders owe their teams is to remove obstacles.  Since execution and delivery are your team’s top priority, this is always the first item on the agenda.  By so doing, you’ll know where you can add the most value NOW should your one-on-one meeting get cut short.  They key question to be answered in this part of the meeting is, “What do you need from me in order to do your job?”


While you owe your team THREE things, your team owes you ONE thing; to make sure you have the opportunity to never make a mistake.  Your managers can do this by providing you key updates, based on your needs.  First, help your managers understand what you need to know, why you need to know it and what level of detail is required.  Finally – and this is key – help your managers understand how you plan to use their updates.

Help your managers understand what “success” means at your level and how they can help make you successful.  They do this by updating you on what’s happening in your area based on your needs as an executive, and to make sure you have the opportunity to never make a mistake.   Don’t let them bury you in minutia; keep it focused and productive.  This way, you not only get what you need to do your job but you make your managers smarter by helping them understand how they can help you.


Part of your role as a leader is to develop your staff to maximize their contribution to the business as well as to foster their personal development.  Start by using the ‘Greed/Fear’ Framework to understand what each manager wants professionally and personally.  Make sure you understand their short-term (current role) and long-term (overall career) goals. 

Typically, business technology teams perform in one of three work streams:

  1. Operations and Production Support
  2. Policy and Procedures
  3. Projects and Initiatives 

Frame each development opportunity within the relevant work stream so that you can provide feedback and development opportunities for your managers within the context of businesses needs.


Investing in our teams is an important part leadership.  This is even more important when it comes to our executive level direct reports.  A well-developed management team functions as your personal brain trust, helping you be a more effective leader.  Such a management team also will earn the trust and confidence of your business partners and also from your managers’ respective organizations.  You’ll also be grooming your managers so that you can ensure a smooth succession when your next opportunity arises within or without your current company.  Take the time to meet with your managers on a regular basis and make sure you use a framework that meets your needs as a leader AND the needs of your managers as aspiring executives.

© 2011, Mark E. Calabrese

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s