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The Meeting You May Be Missing

By Deb Calvert (1223 words)
Posted in Management on December 15, 2013

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A lot has been written about team meetings and the different purposes for off-site retreats, strategic planning meetings, operational meetings, team effectiveness meetings, daily and weekly update meetings, and standup meetings…

But little has been written about the most important meeting of all. It's the one-on-one regular check-in meeting between you and each one of your direct reports.

The one-on-one meeting is not the annual performance review. It's not the drive-by "atta boy" or emergency "Houston we have a problem" meeting that is called only when the situation demands it.

The one-on-one meeting is also not a replacement for a team meeting where the same information is shared with each member of the team. In fact, sharing individually what should be the same message for everyone is inefficient and cause for a feeling of being divided and conquered.

What Is A One-On-One Meeting?

The proper one-on-one meeting is conducted at regular intervals. It is planned with a set agenda. Both the manager and the direct report have input into the agenda. Whenever possible, this one-on-one meeting is conducted face-to-face. Whether in person or by phone, the meeting is truly one-on-one with no distractions or disruptions.

In short, the one-on-one meeting is taken seriously. It is not subject to repetitive rescheduling. It is not treated as happenstance, a luxury, or the easiest cancellation to put time back into a busy calendar.


Having defined what this meeting is and is not, let's back track to talk about why senior managers should have one-on-one meetings with their direct reports.


5 Reasons To Conduct One-On-One Meetings With Your Employees

1. This is the best way to check progress being made on goals. 


Staying on top of progress toward goals enables you to provide course correction and coaching to be sure your expectations are met. These regular check-ins will also ensure there are no surprises – for you or your direct report – at the formal appraisal intervals.


2. Employee engagement levels are improved when there is regular communication between a manager and direct report. 


By conducting these meetings, you convey how important each employee is to you and your team's goals. Having an opportunity to interact with you one-on-one gives each employee an opportunity to get the clarity he or she needs and the encouragement deserved to progress effectively with a high level of engagement.


3. With one-on-one meetings, you will know about problems sooner.  


You'll be able to troubleshoot, problem solve and support each direct report as they encounter speed bumps or when a crisis is brewing.


4. In general, you will be more aware of what's happening whether it's positive or negative. 


That gives you an opportunity to course correct, too. Because you no longer work on the frontline, there's a lot you may be missing if you don't stay in very close contact with the people who have broader access than you do.


5. Developing bench strength starts with developing individuals. 


To be a people builder, you have to know the individual strengths and areas to be developed in each member of your team. Interacting helps you understand and provides the perfect forum for coaching on continual development.


How To Make One-On-One Meetings Work


Knowing what the meeting is and why to conduct the meeting gives you a great start. The only thing left to do is figure out how to make this work. It starts, of course, by budgeting adequate time to ensure quality meetings that are consistently held.

Break it down to figure out exactly how much time you must dedicate to one-on-one meetings may not be as much as you think. If you have four direct reports, for example, you may choose to meet with each of them one hour every other week. That adds up to eight hours a month which is 5% or less of your time. It's a good investment of your time if, for no other reason, it will save you time in the long run.

Once you have allocated your time, you'll want to explain the purpose of these meetings to each team member. Help them to understand from the beginning that this is not a meeting where you will do all the talking. Then stay true to these commitments of time, of setting a mutual agenda, and of creating a two-way exchange.

In each meeting, be sure to keep a positive and future-focused agenda. These meetings will be unproductive and a burden if they become looking back at what cannot be changed, or griping about what has already happened. Set the example by opening on what is positive and future-focused. If your direct report continually looks backwards or becomes negative, shift the conversation by asking "what can we do about this going forward?" Or "What will you do to achieve a different result next time?" If you refuse to participate in a blame and shame game, soon the employee will realize that those conversations are not appropriate.

Finally, your one-on-one meetings should not become replacements for giving feedback in the moment.  When you observe something happening that requires immediate attention to correct or something that deserves immediate recognition, don't hold back. The meetings are for going deeper into important topics. They do not replace all the other routine conversations and spontaneous interactions you're having with your direct reports.

Organizations with one-on-one conversations occurring regularly do report higher levels of employee engagement, better communication overall and fewer meetings related to rework and after-the-fact problem-solving.

It's a great new practice to introduce as you enter the new year.



{#/pub/images/DebCalvertNew.jpg}Written by Deb Calvert, President, People First Productivity Solutions-Author of the DISCOVER Questions book series, Deb has worked as a sales productivity specialist and sales researcher since 2000. She is certified as a Master Sales Coach, Master Trainer, and host of CONNECT! an online radio show for selling professionals where listeners ignite their selling power in just an hour. Deb helps companies to boost productivity through people development. This work includes leadership program design and facilitation, strategic planning with executive teams, team effectiveness work, and performance management program design. 


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Comments (1)

Saulo posted on: January 7, 2014

Totally agree, but cultural differences should be considered during the organisation of this meeting

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