One-to-one meetings with your team members are more important than ever. In the past year many large, well-known organisations have either stopped their annual performance appraisal process or announced they will do so. One-to-one meetings between a manager and a team member have always been important, but the dismantling of annual appraisals will make them even more vital for a high performing team. It was in this context I found an old 2011 article by Leah Candelaria-Tyler and Kate Matsudaira of SEOmoz such a good reminder of the basics.
- The goal of the one-to-one is to move beyond your role as only a manager, to also become an ‘available ear’ for your team member.
- They are typically weekly; at least 30 minutes long; and in a setting offering privacy and confidentiality
- Start on time. Treat it like any other important meeting – because it is! How often do you hear a manager, 10 minutes before a meeting, say something like “something has come up, can we catch up later?”
- You present an open presence, keeping eye contact, with focus on the team member. Don’t look at your phone or watch; don’t take calls; don’t allow others to interrupt; give the team member your undivided attention.
- Take notes.
- Your follow-up is almost as important as the meeting. Without follow-up the impression is that you are just following policy by holding the meeting. The follow-up is best done verbally and in writing.
The matters to be covered could include:
- An update on events or challenges throughout the organisation. This could cover aspects such as staff appointments/changes; strategy; organisational achievements/successes; or even changes in policies. Don’t just tell them: ask their opinion so that it’s conversational.
- Agreeing on goals and tracking progress on goals previously set
- Asking questions and really listening.
- Asking what you can do to be a better manager and thereby create a more productive work environment.
- One-on-ones are meant to be a ‘push and pull’ meeting where goals, complaints and praises are heard and resolved.
Questions used on a weekly basis
In relation to the ‘asking questions’ noted above, it benefits the team member & the manager to use a template of regular questions. The suggestion is you develop a suite of core questions that works for you and your team, with these being supplemented by other questions or topics as required.
Listed below are questions that Kate liked to ask on a weekly basis:
- What went well this week?
- What surprises did you have?
- What could have gone better?
- On a scale of 1-10, how happy are you? Why?
- What makes this week a ____.
- What would it take to make your week a 10?
- What can I do to assist you?
Questions to explore career goals
Consider using these questions (quarterly?) to explore your team member’s longer term career goals:
- With an eye to the future, which skill would you like to develop?
- What do you think you are best at?
- What do you like most about your role?
- What is part of your job now that you wish you could change or do less of?
- What makes you tick?
Questions to help you, the manager, to develop
These are some questions to consider using (quarterly?) to explore how you can develop your own skills:
- What is one thing that I can do differently?
- What was one thing that your last manager did that you like that I don’t do?
- What can I be doing to help you more?
- Do you have any feedback for me?
- Is there anything I should start doing? Stop doing?
- How can I support you better?
These are difficult questions to ask and answer, but ask them. You will have to learn to get comfortable with awkward silence as the team member needs time to consider their response. It is advisable if you make a conscious decision to neither react nor provide any explanation at the time the response is given – just listen and take notes.
Personal versus business?
Many people advocate never mixing business with the personal and so they would say that a one-to-one should be totally focused upon the workplace. However there are many wonderful managers who would encourage these meetings to be a mix of personal and business.
There is much evidence to suggest that a trusting relationship requires broader discussions and so it’s good to share non-work matters as well as aspects about yourself. This reinforces the meeting as a genuine one-on-one – you’re not just a manager on duty.
When your conversation shows a genuine interest in them as a person, in addition to their role on your team, you build trust. You can also open the door to surprising conversations. Genuine feedback from a team member to the last batch of questions (noted above) will only occur in a setting of trust.
You can access the full article by Leah and Kate titled ‘Conducting Effective and Regular One-on-ones’ by clicking here.