Running an effective one on one meeting with staff is no easy task. It is a leadership essential that has managers of people second-guessing their importance, relevance and benefit. I know CEO’s who don’t even do them – leaving it to their direct reports to schedule time in their diaries if there is an ‘issue’ to discuss. Others cancel them on a regular basis, especially at the last minute, discarding their importance. Then there are the ones who do conduct them weekly – but with no real benefit for either party. It can leave everyone frustrated and wondering what is the point?
I know for me it was a struggle to get in right – when to hold a meeting, what the agenda would be and ultimately what was the purpose. Over time, I would change them when I felt they weren’t achieving anything significant. I remember moving them to fortnightly sessions. The results were terrible.
I was happy on one hand that I had more ‘time’ and my week wasn’t full of meetings. However, what essentially happened was I lost touch with details and I just filled my ‘extra’ time with more “stuff” that wasn’t as important as being face to face with my team. I believed I was giving them more time to do their jobs and more responsibility to make results happen, without being a micromanager. What I missed was the golden leadership opportunity to regularly listen, praise, give feedback, share stories and bring people together. The moment I realised this – I reverted back to weekly meetings instantly and the benefits flowed. Here’s some tips to getting the most out of one on one meetings with your staff:
- Weekly agenda – having a regular agenda is critical for consistency and ensuring that both parties are clear on what is going to be discussed. Ultimately the meeting should focus on the person’s key achievements, outcomes they have produced and the activity and goals in their pipeline. I had it written on the white board in the office so we could follow it along and if we got lost or sidetracked, it gave us a clear structure to revert to.
- Purpose – every weekly meeting should be approached with good intent, especially if there are difficult issues to discuss. As a leader, our role is to bring out the best in people and lift their performance to levels they didn’t even think possible. This message can only be heard when you approach all discussions with good intent – the intent to help them perform better.
- Help – in all one on one meetings there should be an opportunity for the staff member to discuss any issues they feel strongly about, without it becoming a whinge fest. It can be tricky to manage and it can be tricky to be heard without sounding like a whinger, or weak or a ‘drama queen’. The truth is there are problems that do require a leader to listen and help you solve. However, most leaders aren’t that good at solving them – often dismissing the concern, brushing it under the carpet and hoping it will go away. Do this too often and your people will ultimately stop talking to you.
- Connect to the vision – in all jobs, sometimes staff members lose their way. They forget the bigger picture of why they are doing what they are doing or how it contributes to the vision and values of the organisation. A weekly one on one meeting is prime time to demonstrate and invigorate a staff member about their individual contribution.
- Commit to action together – the real magic of leadership happens in action. When you are in the field, with a client, in a negotiation – somewhere where staff members can look up to you and learn one new thing that might enhance their own performance. In a one on one meeting take the opportunity right then and there to book a client meeting together in the diary, book a time to have lunch together or a 20 minute coaching session for later in the week on an area your staff member is struggling with. Don’t talk about what you should do – just do it.
- Inspiration – the most effective one on one meetings are the ones where people walk out inspired to conquer their day, to accomplish a task that perhaps they were dreading or to make a difference somehow with someone. This is an intangible something that great leaders know how to do – through asking the right questions, praising specific behavior or encouraging them to achieve. The quick test – ask yourself how you feel when your staff member has left? In my experience, if you feel a bit unsure that the meeting was effective, your staff member probably feels the same way. If you feel happy and that you contributed something insightful – again they probably feel that too.
- Just talk – an important element to all relationship building, especially with your employees is the opportunity and interest to talk on a personal level. This has to be authentic. You can’t fake interest. All employees want to know their boss is human too and talking about your lives outside of work, is a well-rounding element to strengthen a relationship.
- Share a story – your team wants to know that you have been in their shoes. They want to hear that you too struggled, made a mistake, hated prospecting new clients or simply weren’t perfect. Sharing these examples will go a long way to earning respect as well as sharing ways to solve problems.
- Be present – if you knew the outcome of your meeting could be the difference between missing or making your budget, winning a new client or making someone’s day – would you suddenly sit up and be a bit more interested? My advice – don’t dread the weekly meeting and stop wasting time thinking about what else you have on your agenda that day. Be in the moment to make an impact.
- No hidden agendas – there is nothing worse than being in a meeting and knowing that something isn’t quite right. I am a big believer in honesty about observations and sharing with good intent. The critical piece is the delivery around how they can perform better at work and what specifically they can start or stop doing to achieve that. It’s not a game – straight conversations are critical to an effective meeting.
What I have learnt is that every employee is different and whilst the agenda gives the guide, the person must drive the tone and style so it works for them. I had one employee who was highly structured – came in all prepared – graphs, figures, pipeline activity right down to the specific questions she wanted to ask. Then I had another who always wanted to talk about the weekend before getting into the heavy detail of her results. Both were successful in achieving their goals to perform at a higher level, the difference was in the format and style.
If you are feeling that your meetings are lacking the impact or that you need to change it up a bit, try changing the location. One of my clients who works in the sporting arena will take a corporate box overlooking the oval to talk to her team, another takes them to their favouriate coffee shop – or do what I did once a month – sit at their desk, in their space, on their territory. It is all about your people after all and the difference they can make to your business by being a high performing employee.
At the end of the day, if you won’t spend an hour a week with your most important asset – your people, perhaps you’re in the wrong job?