One-on-one meetings, face to face meetings, or check-in meetings, whatever you may call them, having individual-focused conversations with each employee on your team is an essential part of leadership.
When you’re a first-time manager or supervisor, having one-on-one meetings may be on your to-do list because “that’s what leaders do.” They should be more than a check-the-box activity though as they can provide great benefits to both you and your employee. When done well, one-on-one meetings are a time to connect on a human level, build rapport and trust, work through challenges, and celebrate success. It is dedicated time for your employee to feel supported, cared for, and heard.
Whether it’s your first meeting with employees as a new manager or you have many years of experience leading a team of employees, here are 7 tips to help you amplify the impact of your next one-on-one meeting with employees.
7 Tips for a first one-on-one meeting with employees
- It's their time
- Make sure to listen
- Understand the meeting objective
- Be prepared
- Use the time to build relationships
- Get feedback
- Show appreciation
Your first one-on-one meeting with employees is not About You
One-on-one meetings with employees are their time. It’s dedicated time for face-to-face communication with you to seek advice, get clarity on deliverables, receive coaching, and share career aspirations. The goal of these meetings is to empower your employees. The onus is on them to set the agenda and seek out what they need. By doing this, the focus shifts to them to drive the meeting and meet their needs.
Why it's important to listen
Everyone wants to feel heard, especially our employees. In fact, Salesforce Research found that when an employee feels heard, they are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform to the best of their abilities.
Successful leaders are good listeners. As leaders, we want to jump in to solve problems, offer advice, and develop alternative solutions. However, we need to first hear the employee's perspectives, gain understanding, and most importantly, make them feel heard. When leaders step back and let employees have the floor in check-in meetings it signals respect, builds trust, and shows an openness to alternative perspectives.
Understand the meeting objective
Check-ins with your employees should be exactly that, a time for you to touch base to get an update. It is a good opportunity to deliver continuous performance management where you discuss project progress, performance against annual targets, and develop action plans to meet their desired career trajectory.
The meeting objective should not be treated as a performance review. That’s a different time where formal discussion happens with ratings of accomplishments are delivered and new goals or determined for the upcoming year.
Prepare For Your One-On-One Meeting
As much as the face-to-face meeting with your employee is their time, they will look to you to lead the meeting. With that in mind, you should have some open-ended questions prepared to kick off the meeting, such as:
- How would you like to use this time?
- Is there anything preventing you from achieving your goals?
- What has changed since we last met?
These questions help frame the conversation against what your employee would like to accomplish in your time together. Come prepared to share your thoughts or feedback and with questions to get updates on a particular task or situation.
Use the Time to Build Relationships
An often overlooked but incredibly important aspect of one-on-one meetings is the opportunity to build relationships with your employees. It’s a chance to learn about them not only professionally but personally. Asking questions about what they enjoy and how they spend their time away from work is an important process of building relationships. When you ask questions it shows a genuine interest in them as a person. This builds trust and as such will increase the likelihood of an employee offering suggestions and raising concerns in future check-in meetings.
Get Feedback from Employees
An important question to ask in your one-on-one meetings is “Can you give me some feedback?” No, this does not make you look weak, needy, or uncertain of your own skills. It creates an atmosphere of trust where feedback can be delivered by both you and the employee without any defensiveness. If feedback is delivered only one way can be perceived as a negative experience, not as an opportunity for growth.
One study looked at 360-degree assessments to see if there was a correlation between leaders who asked for feedback and leadership effectiveness. They found top-ranked leaders who scored at the 83rd percentile on leadership effectiveness were also at the top for asking for constructive feedback. Feedback should be viewed as a gift where someone has the courage to provide input on something you may not necessarily see.
Everyone wants to know they’re doing a good job and feel appreciated. Check-in meetings are a great time to deliver positive reinforcement, as many employees crave this kind of recognition from their leader and are motivated by it. In fact, it was found that nearly 75% of employees said great managers praise and communicate appreciation for their work and contributions. So, don’t save your praise for an annual review or the completion of a large goal; find small things to thank your employee for such as meeting a deadline or the quality of work provided.’
No matter if it is your first one-on-one meeting with employees or your 1000th, they should be treated as much more than just a “check the box” activity. They are a real opportunity to connect, provide support, and develop employees. This requires leaders to hone their active listening, meetings management, and communication skills, which can be done through various training programs.
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