Everyone gets busy in our day to day schedule. We are trying to put first things first on our priority list, especially things having to do with customers and revenue generation. There is also the problem-solving skills we sharpen daily as it seems new challenges are continually springing up like a well-cared for vegetable garden. Just like the garden, there is work to do here each day. This means we are probably spending most of the time visiting with our direct reports on issues and problems as well. Unless we are proactive in our priorities, the first thing to get left off our list is our 1:1 meetings with our people. Quite often, our 1:1 meetings are not truly 1:1, they are staff meetings in which each report has an update and we might have a question or two for them during the meeting. Staff meetings are full of status updates, awkward silences and frequent cancellations for things deemed more important.
Why do we avoid having 1:1 meetings with our reports? There are a few reasons and some of them I will try to identify and alleviate in today’s post. For those of you who are not generating value from your 1:1 meetings, it could be a lack of fundamentals such as, a lack of good habits, having the right preparations before, during and after the meetings.
The fact is 1:1 meetings are the single most valuable tool you have to fix all kinds of problems and develop your reports. I believe the problem is that most leaders have not had valuable 1:1 meetings themselves in their career, so they are skeptical as to why they need to be doing them. The latest research indicates that 90 minutes of your time doing a good 1:1 with your report can enhance the quality of your subordinate’s work for 2 weeks or for some 80+ hours. So, the value is there.
First of all, you need to choose the right frequency of the 1:1 meeting for each member of your team.
Every person in your company, division or department needs to have a 1:1 meeting with the person they report to, regardless of tenure or experience level. The topics of the meeting may change but hitting and executing on the schedule of meetings is crucial. If you have more than 5 people, it can be hard to have the 1:1 meeting with each of them every week, so proceed accordingly regarding frequency, which then might be twice a month.
Second, consider logistics regarding the meeting. Where will it happen and how long will it be?
These meetings need to be more than a simple and quick check-in. You might start with an hour and then expand to an hour and a half. It’s also important to not just try to fill the time. If you can end early, that is fine but at the same time, make sure you have spent time preparing for the meeting and you have your topics prepared.
Third, do your meeting prep and share the agenda with your report ahead of time.
Agendas ahead of time help settle the nerves of your report so they do not have to be concerned with what the meeting may be about. I would also recommend starting with some good news from your report. This can be any kind of achievement personally or professionally. This helps start the meeting off with something positive and easy to discuss. Then you can progress on to the performance of their job requirements and goals, relationships with peers, leadership skills and/or innovation practices in their department.
Finally, end with next steps and any assignments you may want to give them before your next 1:1 meeting.
Remember, to do anything well takes practice and repetition. Continuing to conduct your 1:1 meetings with your direct reports will give you plenty of chances to improve yourself and also your subordinate. One of the biggest compliments you can receive as a leader is that people enjoy coming to 1:1 meetings with you. With a little organization, planning, and preparation, you can make the most of this investment into your people.
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