August 19, 2019

They may take time and energy, but the value attained is priceless! 

One of the most common things that can decrease employee satisfaction is that the team is not working together towards a common goal.  Did you know that more than half of US workers are either actively looking for a job or watching job openings?1

It might seem counter intuitive to pull a team together through conversations that are designed to specifically get team members by themselves, one-on-one.  It is in fact one of the most impactful practices to get team member feedback.  Along with feedback from your team, you will gain a host of other benefits.  Let’s explore the art of the one-on-one.


The buy-in part is not required of the support staff, but that of management.  It is challenging for team members to be pulled away from their roles.  Ownership and management might not see the value at first.  It could be viewed as a waste of time to pay someone for their time to just be talking and not producing and taking care of patients (working on the team not with the team).

It can feel uncomfortable to pull people OUT of the hospital.  Yes, that is right! We recommend that one on ones are done away from the hospital.  It removes the security blanket of having all the staff working onsite.  It also pulls people out of their comfort zone.  Precisely why it provides the most growth.

Managers must buy-in to this process.  Time investment is hard to do when they are already stretched to the max in other areas.  Giving time to one-on-ones can be a stressful thought.  This time takes away from the other ‘to-do’ list items that have to be done.  The trick to this is making these meetings another valuable, important thing on that list.

Flip the mindset.  These are not something we do when we have the time.  They are something that has to be done.  Just like payroll, onboarding and budgeting.

Prepping:person writing notes

Any good meeting starts with good prep.  You want to go into these meetings with an agenda.

Writing out your questions and plan for the meeting will make this go from a casual chat to communication with purpose.  It will provide a tool to bring the conversation back on track when it gets off track, because it will. Having your team member prep as well is necessary for a productive meeting.

A short list of open-ended questions is a great start.  We challenge you to change up the focus of these one-on-ones on a regular basis.

Focusing your team into different topic areas like personal goal setting, tackling practice challenges and service development will allow for more productive conversations.  Regardless of what you pick, questions should be a combination of repeated questions (for tracking changes) and new questions (to keep things fresh).

Meeting Space:hands and paper, 2 people meeting

We want these meetings to be dedicated to quality communication.  Therefore, do them at an off-site location, scheduled for a specific date and time, and set a specific length.  Assigning these specifics shows your team (and yourself) just how important they are.  A lax approach to these meetings will give that in return – a lax result.  Give these meetings the attention they deserve, the grit they need and they will be fruitful.

These meetings should be documented.  Writing down the responses and making notes will make sure that there is a record of employee feedback.  This provides the needed feedback for the next step – follow-up. It creates a sense of importance, concrete, if you will.

Follow-up and Follow-through:

Review the documented conversation points from your meeting to set goals and follow-up.  This is a two-part process.

Part one of these conversations is to gather feedback and take action on that feedback when possible.

Part two is to design appropriate follow-up and accountability for goals and practices.  If all you do is write down the feedback and file it away, it loses all value.  Much like buying heartworm preventative for your pet.  You can buy-it with every intention of giving it, but when it lives in your cupboard and you never give it, not only is your investment wasted, but you could be putting your pet in danger.

Don’t let the value slip away. Don’t let that happen to you with your one-on-ones. The danger is you lose credibility and people will stop participating.


The true value of a quality one-on-one is the communication, which in a large part is listening.  Allowing your team to open up about their roles will provide a window into their skills, likes, dislikes and needs.

Centering communication around one individual, listening to what it said, and having appropriate follow-up on those conversations will improve your team’s job satisfaction exponentially.

One of the truest human needs is to be heard. To be a part of something is a close second in veterinary medicine.  One-on-ones fulfill both of those needs. It also provides tools managers need to better manage their teams.

What are you waiting for?  There is no better time than NOW to start conducting one-on-ones with your team.


3 members of CATALYST VetPC

1Gallup’s State of the American Workplace Report