Close this search box.
Close this search box.

A Harvard Lecturer Shares Her Tips on One-on-Ones

From shy engineers to bombastic sales executives, Julia B. Austin has managed dozens of direct reports over the course of her career in the tech industry.

HarvardAnd no matter what their role, she’s always made one-on-one meetings a priority.

“Whether it’s an hour a week or 30 minutes once a month, making time for an individual says you give a damn about them as a person,” Austin writes in the Harvard Business Review.

Austin, a senior lecturer at Harvard and principal of advisory group Austinfish, says how leaders treat staff as individuals “can determine the way their DNA will impact the fabric of your organization.”

One-on-ones provide a forum for staff to be honest, establishing trust, while allowing managers to assess employees’ unique abilities, Austin says. They also can assist the performance review process by focusing on the future rather than on past achievements.

Here are five of Austin’s tips that may be useful for CEOs:

1. Make sure all staff know in advance why one-on-ones are happening: you don’t want people freaking out and thinking they’re getting fired!

2. Make them regular, not ad-hoc, to demonstrate commitment to each individual.

3. Have an agenda that focuses on personal growth and email it to staff in advance.

4. Don’t monopolize the conversation.

5. Always follow up after the meeting with discussion notes, decisions made and any relevant feedback.

Investing in individuals also means investing in teams, Austin concludes.

“One-on-ones can make all the difference in how you lead. Your time invested in doing them right will pay off not only with each individual, but with how your organization functions as a team.”


  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.