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10 ways to conduct one-on-one meetings with impact

Cornerstone Editors

One of the basic premises of being an effective leader is to have regular one-on-one meetings with your staff. Yet often, these meetings feel like torture to the employee, lacking forethought and focus. In such cases, leaders need to recognize that the value of these interactions extends beyond mere formality. To make these one-on-ones effective, leaders should prepare for each meeting, set clear agendas and actively listen to their employees' concerns and feedback.

Managers must understand that one-on-one touch bases are an opportunity to foster a positive working relationship, offer guidance and provide a platform for employees to express their thoughts and ideas. By demonstrating genuine interest in their team member's professional development and well-being, leaders can create an environment of trust and collaboration, making these meetings a source of motivation rather than dread.

10 tips for having motivating and meaningful one-on-ones:

1) Get it on the calendar – Make your one-on-one meetings a recurring event and make them a priority. Nothing says, "You're not that important to me," like routinely canceling or postponing employee meetings. Allow enough time for the sessions and avoid back-to-back when possible.

2) Have a plan Be prepared with what you want to discuss. Don't just wing it. Spend 5-10 minutes before the meeting to write what you want to achieve. Inform your employees that they should come to the meeting prepared as well. Create an agenda that works for you both, and start with having the employee share their information first.

3) Focus on them – Let your employees do most of the talking. Remain focused and interactive. Ask the employee to suggest how to solve an issue before giving your feedback or opinion. Never look at your emails or texts or take other calls during the meeting. Ever. If it's a true emergency, someone will find you.

4) Celebrate wins Be sure to acknowledge and celebrate what the employee has successfully created or implemented. Let them know you value and admire their achievements. Too often, managers move to the next project or assignment without pausing to celebrate what the employee has just done.

5) Focus on the future, not the past – Spend most of your time discussing future activities and events. If the employee is less experienced, help them problem-solve their approach. If they're more experienced, let them take time to "show off" what they plan to do. A separate team meeting with everyone involved is a better option if you need to do a post-mortem review of a past project or event.

6) Specify desired results – Help the employee outline a project's objectives and desired outcomes. Be specific and as straightforward as possible so the employee knows what the result should look like. Be less focused on how they achieve the result. They'll probably take a different approach than you would. Allowing them to find their way is a better learning opportunity — for them and you.

7) Focus on strengths – People love to hear you acknowledge what they're good at. They want to know you see their strengths. Too often, managers think their role is to give feedback about what the employee needs to improve. Sometimes, you need to provide constructive feedback, but you will be more effective if you start with their strengths and then move to where they could use additional support.

8) Ask good questions – Your employee will know you are engaged and listening when you ask appropriate, challenging questions. Don't interrogate. Your questions should help you understand the situation and allow you to acknowledge significant decisions, actions or results or help them identify where they may need more planning.

9) Share information – Once your employee has given you updates, share information with them. Employees want to feel "in the know" and appreciate hearing the information they have learned in your team meetings. It doesn't need to be confidential but should contain company news and information that impacts them.

10) Ask how you can help – Part of being a good manager is asking your employees how you can support them. Refrain from assuming what they would like to have you do; ask them where they need you to be involved. Err on the side of the employee. Allowing them to be under-supported is sometimes a better learning opportunity for them than forcing your support when they don't see the need for it.

Get in touch with one of our experts to explore how we can tailor our solutions to your organization's needs.

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