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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.  Here are ten 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 your employee meetings.  Select days of the week when you are usually in the office and times of the day where conflicting meetings/events will be less likely.  Allow enough time for the meetings 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 prior to the meeting to write out what you want to achieve.  Inform your employee 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 employee do most of the talking.  Remain focused and interactive.  Ask the employee to give suggestions for how he/she would solve an issue before giving your own feedback or opinion.  Never look at your emails, 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 those things 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 the majority of your time discussing near-term future activities and events.  If the employee is less experienced, help them problem-solve their approach.  If they are more experienced, let them take time to “show off” what they plan to do.  If you need to do a “post mortem” review of a past project or event, a separate team meeting with everyone involved is usually a better option.
  6. Specify Desired Results.  Help the employee outline the objectives of a project and desired results.  Be as specific and clear as possible so the employee knows what the end result should look like.  Be less focused on how they achieve the result.  They will 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.  There are times you need to give 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 give you the chance to acknowledge great decisions, actions, or results or help them identify where they may need to do more planning.
  9. Share Information.  Once your employee has given you updates, share information with them.  Employees want to feel they are “in the know” and appreciate hearing the information you have learned in your own team meetings.  It doesn’t need to be confidential, but it should contain company news and information that impacts them.
  10. Ask How You Can Help.  Part of being a good manager is asking your employee how you can be a support to them.  Don’t assume 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.

Follow these tips and see how your relationship with your employees can be transformed.  It doesn’t have to be torture to have meaningful impact with your one-on-one meetings.