Two-way, consistent communication is one of the major portions of our management framework. The absolute best way to execute on that portion of the model is through weekly one-on-one meetings with those who directly report to you. If you’re just getting started on incorporating these into your management routine, or are seeking to improve your current one-on-ones, here are four quick tips:
Yes, you have the time.
When you have employees reporting to you, you are obligated to manage them. Management requires time. One-on-one meetings only take 30 minutes a week, with and extra 15 minutes to prepare the points you want to hit on beforehand. And even if they required more time, these meetings will easily be some of the most productive you have. Simply set a reoccurring calendar appointment and then consider it set in stone. These are the meetings that you do not cancel unless it is an an absolute emergency. Think a bone sticking out of your or your child’s leg emergency. You don’t postpone it or cancel it because you’re too busy. Consistency is the name of the game.
They are not about you.
The primary goal of your one-on-one meetings is to build a trusting, open relationship with your subordinates. It’s your focused time to get to know them, what they care about, what they like doing, what they don’t like doing, what they’re good at, where they can improve, and so on and so forth. Spend the first third to half of the meeting letting them set the agenda – just ask them what they have going on and take it from there. They’ll take you through the elements that are most top of mind for them and really show you their strengths. This will allow you to not only address immediate issues, but also identify opportunities for professional development and career progression that you may not have otherwise observed. But even more importantly, you need to build a relationship with them – that will be how you’ll draw the best performance out of them.
Prepare & Document.
Prior to going into your one-on-one, take a few minutes to prepare what you want to cover during that meeting – items you want to check in on, follow-up from the previous week, happenings you want to make sure they are aware of. Most of the time, you’ll cover a number of the items in the first part of the meeting and that way you can just check them off of the list and spend a few minutes going over any remaining items.
During your one-on-one, it’s OK to write things down! Take notes on what your employees are talking about, their updates, any next steps or follow-ups that need to happen. This helps you in many ways:
- You’ll create expectations for your follow-up and your employee’s follow-up as the conversation is happening instead of after the fact.
- You’ll create documentation for both positive and negative elements – this will come in handy if you want to make the case for promotion or termination down the road.
- You’ll have notes when it comes time to prepare for next weeks meeting!
Writing things down may make your employees nervous at first, but just show them that there’s nothing nefarious about it – you’re just writing down what they’re saying so that you remember it. Plus, creating the expectation that things they say are going to be documented is not a negative thing – that’s the real world.
Set aside some time for coaching.
We’ve previously covered the difference between feedback and coaching. This is particularly critical to understand if you plan on setting aside time for coaching during your one-on-ones. Since we approach coaching as a collaboration, your one-on-ones are the perfect time to put it into practice. Use the last ten minutes or so of your one-on-one to assess where things stand, brainstorm items, and set new goals. It doesn’t take much more time each week to create a valuable coaching experience as long as you use that time well.
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