It's not an overstatement to say that one-on-one meetings with your team might be the single most important management activity that you engage in. It's a chance for management to keep track of the progress and mindset of the members of their team, and it's a chance for team members to voice their thoughts and questions. In this short article we'll discuss the key components of a good one-on-one.
Ten Minutes for Them
This is a chance for you to transition from the realities of the workday into a meeting. It's a chance for you, as management, to get to know members of your team more personally. At first, there might be a fair amount of resistance from your staff to sharing elements of their personal lives with you, but let them know you're not interested in prying into their business and are rather more interested in understanding what motivates them. It's also important to remind them you don't want to just jump into a conversation about their performance, that you're interested in building a relationship, and that can't be done without getting to know them better.
Ten Minutes for You
This is your opportunity to specifically go over targets, goals, and KPIs. It's important to give your perspective first, then to hear theirs. This is the most important part of the one-on-one. Without looking at these specific goals and targets, there's no way for your team to know if they are performing well, and there's no way for you to measure their performances.
Ten Minutes for the Future
If your team members are delivering to expectation, talk about ways they can do even better, or ways that they can improve their efficiency in other matters. Don't allow complacency to creep in and cause plateaus in performance. These high performers can be given opportunities to seek out solutions on their own, to get out of the loop of seeking direction from above, and instead, find direction in themselves.
For those who are not delivering to expectation, have a frank conversation about how it can be fixed. Ask them to lead the way with possible solutions, and ask if there are additional ways you can help them.
Whether your team members are performing to expectation or not, make sure to set some kind of homework assignment for your next session. This allows there to be continuity in the discussion and a check against the lapse that can happen: the meeting occurs and drops out of their mind until the next meeting. If they have homework they need to do, they can't just forget about the meeting.
It's important to be fully present during these meetings. Phones should be off; doors should be closed. Ideally these meetings should occur every single week. This will maintain momentum and regularity and remind your staff that their personal and professional progress is important.
Remember that above all in these one-on-ones you are building a relationship with your team members. This is and should be your highest priority as a manager. When you have a relationship, you aren't just looking at a set of KPIs from someone you know vaguely. When you have a relationship, you're able to contextualize all that performance and give it better guidance.
Just having these meetings isn't enough. The meetings provide a clear and simple path for everyone to be on the same page, but it's what happens each visit - with your guidance and direction - that will drive that personal and professional growth for your team members, and as a result, your entire team.