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Remote One-on-Ones: What Employees are Yearning For Most

Remote One-on-Ones: What Employees are Yearning For Most

by | Aug 10, 2020 | By Karin Hurt and David Dye, Communication, Leading Remote Teams |

Remote One-on-One Meetings Provide Direction and Connection

One of the simplest, most cost-effective ways to build trust and improve performance in your remote team is a deliberate and well-executed cadence of remote one-on-ones. Here are six topics both high-performing and struggling employees tell us they’re yearning for in their remote one-on-one meetings.

Beyond Status Updates: Your Employees Are Yearning For More in Remote One-on-One Meetings

Even before this transition to remote work, when we would ask employees about their experience with one-on-ones, we often heard nervous laughter and responses like these:

“One-on-ones, what are those (hahaha)?”

“She has an open door. She tells us to come by whenever we want. (Of course, she’s never there. Hahaha).” I just wish she could carge out some dedicated time.

“I just count on windshield time with my manager between client visits. He’s so busy, that’s the only time I know I’ve got him captive (hahaha).”

“He just leaves me alone. I do a good job. I guess he would tell me if I was screwing up (hahaha).”

Obviously, these responses are less than ideal, but it’s even harder to wing it now. So much is changing—and fast.

In the last few months, when we’ve asked employees about their one-on-one meetings, the tenor of the conversations has changed from nervous laughter to deep concern.

Employees are yearning for MORE DIRECTION and CONNECTION in their remote one-on-ones.

“Dear Boss, here’s what I need most in our remote one-on-one meeting…”

Today we share what we’re hearing employees need most right now in their one-on-ones. We encourage you to share this article with your team and to talk about what’s working in your remote one-on-ones and what you can do to take them to the next level.

1. Clarity: Help Me Understand What’s Most Important Right Now

“I understand that you don’t have all the answers. Priorities change.  But please give me a fighting chance of working on the right things, because quite frankly, I’m feeling overwhelmed and I don’t have time for rework or wasted effort. Please use our one-on-one meeting to ensure I know what matters most this week, and what I need to do to be successful.”

2. Caring: Show Me I Matter More Than My KPIs

“It’s been a rough week. I’m tired. I signed up to be a working parent, but not a working parent with no daycare! I know you’re busy, but before you jump right in and talk about the project, can you take a minute to see me and check-in to see if I’m doing okay?”

3. Consistency: Give Me a Cadence I Can Count On

“I know your heart is in the right place and that you’re being pulled in a million directions too. But this is the third time you’ve canceled our one-on-one meeting. I had my list all ready to cover with you. And now I’ve got to track you down. I scheduled my one-on-one meetings with my team AFTER ours so I would have answers for them. Now I’m heading into those with unanswered questions which is embarrassing and is slowing all of us down.”

4. Credibility: Be Real With Me, So I Can Be Real With You

“You know what made me feel great, that one time when you opened up and really shared how you were feeling. It made me feel so much better to know that you’re scared and tired too. But since then, you’ve just been so perky and positive—and I wonder, are you for real?”

5. Capacity: Ask Me What I Need

What I need to hear more than anything right now is: “How can I be most helpful?”

6. Curiosity: Ask Me For Ideas

I’m learning a lot and I’ve got some great ideas about how we can do things better. But, I feel awkward sharing my ideas if I’m not asked.

Boss, I really care about you, this company, and our success. I’d love to have some time to pull up with you each week in a quick one-on-one meeting to share as we work through this important time together.


Your courageous employee.

How to Hold a Better Remote One-on-One Meeting: Free Tool

Whether you’re the manager looking to hold better remote one-on-ones, or an employee yearning to get the support you need from your manager. This easy-to-use one-on-one tool works wonders.

It’s a staple in our live-online leadership development programs, and both managers and employees tell us a using it each week to structure remote one-on-ones creates focus, connection, and helps to prioritize what matters most.

It works like this. You schedule 10 minutes a week and ask your employees to and come prepared to discuss the following:

First, start with connecting at a human level. Be sure they’re feeling seen at a human level.

  • What’s the Most Important Thing you accomplished last week? (This gives them an opportunity to ensure you  are aware of the good work they are doing)
  • What’s the Most Important Thing you’re working on this week? (This helps clarify expectations and ensure alignment)
  • What support do you need? This gives your employee a structured time to ask for help AND also makes it easier for them to keep a running list of anything that’s not urgent and can wait.

In fact, in our own company, we’ve automated these questions in Basecamp, and every Monday each team member (including the executive team) answers these questions so that everyone can see and understand their biggest priorities, and offer support.

Of course, automation is not a substitute for great one-on-one meetings, it’s a jumping-off point for deeper conversation.

You can download the free MIT Huddle Planner here.

Your Turn:

What would you add? What’s working well in your remote one-on-ones?

P.S. This article was featured in CTO Universe MVP Best Articles of 2020 Awards.

what employees are yearning for in remote one-on-onesSee Also:

Our Remote Teams Resource Center (full of FREE resources)

How to Overcome One of the Biggest Challenges from Working From Home

How to Hold an Effective Mid Year Review in a Pandemic


  1. Teresa VanDover

    I love the five C’s in addition to the NOW priorities. How might I cite these?

    • Karin Hurt

      Hi Teresa, Thanks so much. We would love for you to cite us. Karin Hurt and David Dye of Let’s Grow Leaders and a reference (or link) to the post would be great. Happy to spread the word!

  2. Mike Henry Sr.

    Great post @Karin and @David. You always write with clarity and give us easy ideas for how to help others grow. Much appreciated. Mike…

    • Karin Hurt

      Thanks, Mike. It’s so great to see you here! We hope all is going well with you.

    • David Dye

      Appreciate it Mike! Always glad to know what resonates 🙂

  3. Val Davenport

    • Ensure your teams know you will have open conversation about how to support the Home-Work-School triangle and invite them to setup time to talk about it. Better yet, make it an important topic in your 1:1’s with more than a “How’s it going?” Push them to be specific about challenges.
    • As you uncover challenges, brainstorm on solutions. Can they set a different schedule without impacting the business need and team engagement?
    • Do not be so accommodating to be ambiguous. “Whatever you need to do is fine” may at first seem supportive, but you are setting them up for guilt and potentially failure due to a miscommunication on expectations.
    • When you decide on a solution, document it in writing for understanding and send it to the employee. Be specific.
    • Ask them to communicate to their teammates, stakeholders, and customers as needed. Consider setting OOOs for away periods and using the Skype “Set Your Location” feature to add whereabouts.
    • Set intervals for revisiting the situation and expectations and adjusting as needed.

    • Karin Hurt

      Val, Thanks so much. These are all fantastic additions! We particularly like how you do what we call “schedule the finish” and set intervals for revisiting the situation.


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Karin Hurt And David Dye author photo

Karin Hurt and David Dye

Karin Hurt and David Dye help human-centered leaders resolve workplace ambiguity and chaos, so that they can drive innovation, productivity and revenue without burning out employees. As CEO and President of Let’s Grow Leaders, they are known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. Karin and David are the award-winning authors of five books including, Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. David Dye is a former executive and elected official. Karin and David are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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