Client Question: “My previous manager used our one on one meetings to discuss projects. I would like to do something different with my own team. What are the best practices to have a good one on one with a direct report?”
This is a great question. There is very little time to catch up anymore, so when you get some dedicated time to discuss things, the default seems to be to focus on the work. This is okay as long as it isn’t the only thing that you consistently do for each meeting. Think of this as a time to build your relationship with your direct report. Ask how things are going with their family or with a hobby that you know that they enjoy. People want to know that you care about them as a person, not just as someone to do the work. We don’t spend enough time connecting anymore and it doesn’t take that much time to ask someone a few questions. You have to be sincere when you do it and it will build a stronger relationship in the long run.
You can take a hybrid approach meaning that you spend half the time you have on work updates and the other half on asking a few key questions to see how things are going with your team member. There are some good questions to ask and things to think about in this article called Having Great One on Ones with Employees by Kevin Eikenberry. A good leader needs to see if the person is under too much stress, has too much on their plate and if they are struggling. Let them talk and listen to the words they say. What are the nonverbals that they may not be sharing with you? Do they look burned out? Is there something that you can do to help them where they may have a challenge? You need to build a culture of trust with your team members, so you can teach them that it is okay to ask for help. You also need to trust your intuition if they are struggling and not saying anything to you. Let them know that your job is to help them to be successful.
You may also dedicate one meeting per month to just focusing on their development and how they are doing against their action plans. Are they making progress? They may say that they don’t have time for their own development with everything else they have to do, but you need to set the example for them. Tell them what you are doing for your own development. Offer them some ideas to accomplish this in more creative ways than they may have previously considered. Leaders who don’t develop themselves will not continue to grow and be able to share what they learned with others.
Think about the outcomes that you wish you would have had with your own manager. What do you wish would have been discussed? You get to decide how you want the one on one conversations to go. You get to ask your direct report for their feedback and what they would like to cover during the meeting. If things aren’t working, then you can change them. You will make the right decisions to support your team in the best way for both their success and your own.
Are you enjoying the Creating Leadership Connections Blog? Do you know other people who would enjoy reading it each weekday morning? If you find it valuable, please send them this link and suggest that they sign up! http://susanmbarber.com/