Managers and employees often are reluctant to actually schedule a one-on-one meeting and it’s easy to see why. Some managers are not comfortable dealing with one-on-ones while employees see them as punishment or ineffective. So, what’s the point? And is it worth the time? We say absolutely, positively yes.
There are a thousand statistics and reasons why a one on one meeting should be on your monthly to-do list, but we can sum it up in one word: connection.
One on ones meetings are critical for managers to build productive working relationships with each member of the team. It is a way to provide an uninterrupted private time to talk about project status and personalized feedback and mentoring. Research has shown that focusing on building a relationship with your direct reports can actually change their brain to be more open to new ideas and innovation.
If you’ve never had a one-on-one with your employees, or it’s been a while, here’s a quick guide to get you started on the right path.
Know the purpose:
This is not a performance review or a disciplinary meeting, this is a chance for connection. The purpose is to understand the individual needs of each of your staff. Know what they like, dislike, where their interests are and what they care about. One-on-ones can help in gaining insight about their perspective on the company and the work that they are involved in.
Create a Schedule:
Regular one-on-one meetings will remind your employees they are part an important part of organization. Set a realistic schedule and stick with. Keep your meetings as consistent as possible. Do not cancel meetings according to your mood. Post the schedule so everyone knows when their turn is and they aren’t surprised when they get called into your office.
Prepare, but don’t have an agenda
As the leader, prepare for this meeting as you would any other. Make a list of topics that you want to discuss, but this is about your team members having the opportunity to bring their concerns and questions to you as well. You may want to have a loose outline in case your employees don’t have much to say, but the goal is to have a free-flowing discussion. Here’s a very simple 4-step outline that can help get the ball rolling:
· Step 1: Start With Excitement
Ask them what they are working on right now, what they are excited about, what tasks they prefer doing, etc. This gives you the chance to assess their current workload and assess their level of motivation. To get the most of your one on ones ask them about their interests and if they actually enjoy what they are doing. This allows you to efficiently allocate employee resources and use everyone’s skills and talents.
· Step 2: Ask For Their Feedback, Don’t Give Them Yours
This is your opportunity to listen and learn. Ask how you can be a better leader without getting defensive or critical. For example:
o Is there anything I can do to help employees be more successful?
o What are the challenges you face at work?
o How are the team members working with each other?
o What is the best and worst part of your job?
o What do you think about the new plan that we discussed?
o What would you want to do for making work fun?
o What change you want in the organization?
o Ask them what you can do to help make their job easier.
· Step 3: Give Them The Opportunity To Speak Privately
Ask them if they have anything else they’d like to speak about privately. This may give them the opportunity to share personal information with you that may provide valuable insight into the lives of your employees.
· Step 4: Express Gratitude
It does not always take expensive gifts to show your employees you appreciate them. Simply tell them. Employees thrive at work when they know their efforts are meaningful and their contributions have meaning. Tell them how important they are for your organization, talk about something they’re doing well, be specific rather than a general, “oh yeah – thanks for all you do”. When you share with your employees your gratitude, they will never forget you and will return to you many times.
DO’S AND DON’TS OF ONE-ON-ONE MEETINGS:
Be present and positive
Do not take these meetings as just another item to tick off on your to-do list. Consider it as a precious moment for making a connection. Turn off your phone and be fully present with just one person for a few minutes. Give them your full attention and drive the conversation with positivity. More positive the things turn, the more will they be inspired and productive.
Mix Up the Location
Whenever possible, get outside of the conference room or the office. Consider walking while you talk – go outside, grab a cup of coffee or a snack in the afternoon. A change in the environment will often invigorate the discussion and allow for you both to speak your mind in a more casual environment.
Back in 2008, Google launched Project Oxygen, to determine what makes a manager great. They found 8 common behaviors among top performing managers. The number one behavior was being a good coach. This is not someone who is critical or demanding, but instead someone willing to mentor and help. Use your one-on-one as an opportunity to coach, not to reprimand.
Respond with Action: Walk away with a definitive plan and next steps to take so that in your next meeting so that neither of you is in doubt as to what is happening next.
Constructive feedback is OK, blame is not. Your employees will speak up only when they know they won’t get in trouble. Playing the blame game will close down communication very quickly and ensure nothing useful will be derived from the meeting.
Cut it short
It can be tempting to cut the meeting short if there’s work to get back to and your employee seems resistant to the conversation. Resist this temptation and take advantage of the time. Even if it’s a rather quiet walk, finish the walk – open up yourself about obstacles you’re facing and perhaps they’ll be more willing to open up as well.
You might be tempted to use this time to gossip about office politics. Avoid doing this at all costs. This only spreads negativity and leave a bad impression. Don’t get into the mud, keep the conversation pointed in a positive direction.
Drag it out
We don’t want to cut the meeting short, but there’s no reason to make it drag on either. Try to keep each one-on-one to 30 minutes. Split the time so that both of you are able to share your messages and be listened to. Take five minutes at the end to decide your action items moving forward and finish up. If they are consistently taking longer than 30 minutes, you may need to schedule them more often. Some prefer a monthly check-in, while others think weekly is best. Decide what works for you and what schedule is most effective.
With these guidelines, you can really drive meaningful positive change in the lives of your employees. Consistent one-on-one meetings allows the relationship between managers and their direct reports to continually grow and develop through meaningful connection.