I’ve always found 1-on-1s an extremely powerful management tool. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, I am referring to a regular meeting with each of your first reports or your manager that is just the two of you maintaining the relationship, staying aligned, understanding goals and removing obstacles.
Communication is a fundamental part of both leadership and management and it needs to be open, frequent and, importantly, two-way. A 1-on-1 is the perfect forum for ensuring this is being done effectively. It is not a team meeting. It is not a surrogate for some other project meeting you wish you’d had. It is about continual and constructive engagement, collaboration and growth.
“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” – Stephen Covey
What often happens though, is the 1-on-1 meeting is not given the priority it deserves and is either deferred, rushed or poorly aligned with the desired outcomes. Neglecting to hold them regularly, or at all, means that things pile up and attempts to cover a long list of concerns and issues in a single random meeting are ineffectual and potentially stressful for both parties.
Failure to encourage an open and constructive two-way discussion may trigger defensive behaviours and torpedo any hopes of a positive outcome. Leaving insufficient time to wrap-up and agree on the next steps and the parties responsible for them will undermine any progress made. The likely result being that you revisit the same issues again and again in subsequent meetings.
A better way to approach 1-on-1s is with a few simple ground-rules, a repeatable structure (tailored to the individual) and an honest and transparent coaching mind-set. Here are my seven top tips for great 1-on-1s:
- Scheduled – a regular pattern builds trust and facilitates preparation
- Structured – three 10 min blocks – them | you | collaborate
- Focused – don’t try to cover too much – focus on what matters most
- Attentive – no distractions (email / phones / interruptions etc)
- Positive – openly review the past with a focus on the future
- Evolutionary – examine what’s working & what’s not [incl. the 1-on-1]
- Action oriented – end with an action plan – who | what | when
All that’s needed is 30 minutes per meeting each week. When done well, there will be a noticeable increase in engagement, productivity and decision-making. The benefits are huge. No confusion (well, at least a lot less). No surprises. No loss of momentum. This is a forum for inspiration, alignment, coaching, collaborative problem solving and reinforcing accountabilities. It’s a platform for learning. It’s a platform for growth. It’s a platform for building relationships.
So, if you are not currently using 1-on-1s it’s time that you to took a hard look at that decision. If you are already running them then why not review your approach against the tips I have presented above and see if there is any room for improvement. Of course, I’d love to learn what’s working for you so please leave a comment if you have something to share.
One thing is for sure – however you choose to approach this topic there is one underlying principle that is non-negotiable:
“Seek first to understand.” – Stephen Covey