By Jeanine Buzali, Marketing Director

Earlier this week, one of my staff members sent me a message asking, “J, are we 1:1-ing in the meeting room?”

She had turned one of our core management ideas into a verb, to “one on one”. A couple of years ago, Monte, our Managing Director, introduced a new practice, one-one-ones, that he had learned from listening to podcasts at One-on-ones are regularly scheduled meetings between a manager and each employee that reports to him or her directly.  One-on-ones are thirty minutes long, held every week without fail, and allow the employee to discuss anything he or she likes. Any topic important to the employee can be discussed, although the meetings usually end up focused on work-related or career development items. When done regularly, the employee knows that he or she will have dedicated, private time with his or her manager, allowing for issues to be discussed on a regular basis.

Why one-on-ones? One of ELG’ s vision statements is to be a great place to work. Study after study show that relationships are the biggest factor in employee satisfaction. We, ELG’s management team, know the only way to develop relationships is by spending time on a regular, consistent basis. Working for an organization that has specific techniques to support me in building direct personal relationships with each of my team members has helped me grow as a manager, and it makes my work more fulfilling. Dedicating set time each week to developing our relationships not only improves interpersonal management skills, it also helps managers and their direct reports become more effective and more efficient. We get more work done, we do it better, and we enjoy the work more.

With my marketing team members, we often use the time to brainstorm or discuss tasks that require more thought than we can allocate in the usual go-go-go pace of our day-to-day routines. Other times we discuss career goals and professional growth, or things that are happening in our personal lives that affect our work performance. But there are very few rules to 1:1-ing. The important thing is that they happen once a week every week, for at least thirty minutes, and that the employee can discuss anything he or she wants to bring up. The single biggest factor that influences people are relationships – and the only way to develop relationships is by spending time on them.

After about a year of 1:1-ing every single week, I now enter these meetings (both with my boss and with my employees) ready to reflect and spend some time prioritizing important aspects of our work that ultimately help our personal development, as well as the development of ELG. I have found it particularly helpful in working in a cross-cultural setting, in which getting to know people is contingent on more factors than usual. For me personally, 1:1-ing has been central to building a marketing team practically from scratch, as well as to continuing to grow and learn in a conscious, mentored way as I do my job. Many organizations talk about being a great place to work, but the one-on-ones are the way we at ELG actually put this into action.


Jeanine Buzali

Jeanine Buzali

Marketing Director

Jeanine came to Shanghai in 2011, and has previously worked in Mexico City and Mumbai. She uses her community-building experience to implement outreach projects and parternships, in order to bring awareness of our services to any child and family who might need them.