How to make one-to-one meetings count

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The most powerful coaching tool a manager has is a one-to-one meeting. These meetings provide dedicated time for managers to learn important information about their employees, and offer useful, real-time, feedback

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on 15Five

When one-to-ones happen frequently, managers have the opportunity to increase their overall effectiveness and boost employee performance. Here are four tips to help you have more meaningful one-to-ones with your employees.

Don’t skip them

Managers aren’t just responsible for their own workloads; they must also tend to their employee’s professional and emotional wellbeing. One-to-ones enable managers to carve out the time it takes to offer this level of support but, often, these meetings are the first to go during busy weeks.

In 15Five’s 2020 Workplace Report, we learned just how indispensable one-to-ones are. Compared to employees with less frequent conversations with their managers, those with at least weekly one-to-ones feel:

  • more trusting of senior leaders;
  • more comfortable bringing up tough issues;
  • more frequently motivated;
  • more inspired by the work they do; and
  • more purpose in their work.

When these meetings are cancelled it creates a negative, ripple effect; opportunities for growth and recognition are missed, performance issues can arise due to postponed or ineffective feedback and, ultimately, the manager-employee relationship takes a hit. Over time, this disconnection can deepen, and become harder to repair.

Come prepared

Because 70% of managers are trying to support five or more direct reports, it’s important to make the most of every face-to-face interaction. Rather than spending the majority of the meeting getting caught up on the highs and lows of your employee’s week, request this information beforehand so you can jump right into the heart of the conversation without wasting time. 

When employees share relevant information, and answer important feedback questions prior to the meeting, managers and employees can show up ready with solutions, and leave the meeting feeling prepared with action items.

Stay present

Our energy is what most affects the people around us, more so than the words we use; this is why people tend to be more present when you offer them your full, undivided attention. When you actively listen to employees during one-to-ones, it communicates that you respect their time and value their input – if you’re checking email or your mobile, this becomes the priority over your employee’s needs. 

Even if you’re not physically present, people can feel your commitment and your energy across a computer screen just as they can face-to-face. 

Ask the right questions

An effective coach is one who tends to the needs of their employees, and understands their unique strengths. However, not every employee will feel comfortable sharing things about themselves, or asking for help. One of the best ways managers can build and deepen trust is by asking the right questions. Here are three questions you can ask your employees in every one-to-one so that you can discover the best ways to support them. 

  • How are you feeling at work this week?
  • What’s going particularly well in your role?
  • Are you facing any challenges?

Once you get into a regular cadence of asking your people the right questions, it allows you to proactively resolve issues, helps your employees to grow and develop at a quicker rate, making the most of every conversation. 

By mastering the art of one-to-ones, managers can guide their employees’ growth beyond what’s expected of them at work, and help them to navigate the added stressors people are facing today.

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