This DATIS Blog Article, “Having Great One-on-Ones with Employees“, was originally posted by Kevin Eikenberry, Leadership & Learning with Kevin Eikenberry, on May 1st, 2017 and was reposted with permission.
As a leader, you need to stay connected to the members of your team – so you know what they are doing, how they are progressing, and have a chance to provide support for them and much more. You can call these meetings lots of things; I’ve heard them called weekly meetings, touch-in meetings, coaching meetings and much more. The current in-vogue term seems to be the “one-on-one” meeting.
Call it whatever you want, it is an important part of your role, and so it is worth our while to make these as effective as we can.
I am writing today both to help you and to help myself – I continually try to make these more effective conversations with members of my team, and so some of what I am sharing I am doing pretty well, and other parts, there is room for improvement. For all of it, I know that if I improve, our meetings will become even more helpful for both of us.
Whatever you call these get-togethers, they are important for a variety of reasons, including:
- Keeping track of progress on both processes and projects
- Allowing time for team members to get help guidance and get answers to questions
- Providing for real-time problem solving
- Maintaining focus on the important priorities
- Stimulating growth for the team member
- Maintaining and building the relationship
- Providing the chance for feedback and coaching
- Providing the chance to receive feedback on how you are doing
Any one of these is reason enough to meet regularly, and while some might be more important to you (and your team members) than others, all matter. Note too that some are about the work itself, some are about your relationship and some are about coaching and feedback. If you aren’t considering all these intents, consider refocusing your meetings.
Now that you are convinced, or further committed to having these one-on-ones, let’s talk about how you can make the more effective.
Keys to Success
Her are six tips to make these one-on-ones more effective for both of you.
Set clear expectations. Some team members want to meet with you regularly, others less so. Determine their needs and expectations and share yours. Talk about your purpose and desire for meeting with some regularity. The list above may help you clarify that and might be helpful in a conversation with team members. Come to a mutual agreement – or at least a mutual understanding – of why you will be meeting and the value to be gained.
Determine frequency. I am often asked how often should you meet with the members of your team. My answer is that it depends! It depends on the nature of the work, the experience level of your team members, their competence and confidence and much more. Once you have set clear expectations, set a frequency of meeting. And as you go along, occasionally check to see if the frequency is working for both of you, and adjust if it isn’t.
Expect mutual preparation. This isn’t your meeting as a leader, the meeting belongs to both of you – and done well, both of you will benefit. That is why both parties need to come to the meeting prepared. Hold each other accountable for coming with progress and status updates, questions, concerns and items for conversation and decision.
Make it a conversation. Since the meeting belongs to both of you, please (please!) don’t do all of the talking! The best way to improve the chances that you don’t do all of the talking is to have them go first. If you have both come prepared, ask them to start with their list first. This will make for a more conversational tone and a more effective meeting.
Ask questions. Asking questions is one key to creating conversation, and when you have planned your questions, you improve your chance of keeping the conversation flowing. Along with specific questions you might write down in your preparation, consider asking questions like:
- How are things going?
- How can I help?
- What are the barriers in the way?
- What would you suggest?
- What have you already tried?
- What feedback do you have for me?
Include feedback. One of the biggest problems with performance management processes in organizations today is that there is feedback once a year during the performance review. Consider your one-on-ones as prime time for ongoing feedback. If you have a real conversation there will likely be opportunities to integrate feedback (both positive and negative) within the conversation. You can also see these one-on-ones as a chance for intentional ongoing feedback. This provides a way for people to know how they are doing all year long, not just at “performance review” time.
An important note: These ideas will all help make your one-on-ones more effective, regardless of the health and strength of your relationship with a given team member. If you have a high level of trust and a strong working relationship, it will probably mask some deficiencies on the list above. While that is good news; as a leader, when we intentionally work on the list above, we won’t have to rely on the trust in the relationship, and we can build that trust further with the clarity and actions these tips suggest.