070 – One-on-One Meetings – Hey Managers, They’re Kind Of A Big Deal!
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Hello Hello! Welcome back to another episode of the Your Best Manager podcast. My name is Jamie Newman and I’m going to start things off today by saying that if you are at all able to, go grab a pen and paper so you can take some notes today because this show is going to be very practical and very tactical.
But before we get into the main content for today, I do want to tell you about a project that I’m working on. If you’ve been listening over the last couple of months, you know that I’ve been talking through a series on the Fundamentals of Management each Monday and we spent 4 weeks on the topic of hiring.
Well, during episodes 61 and 64, where I shared some best practices on the hiring process and on interviewing, I mentioned that I was putting together an epic hiring guide, which is going to be available for free to the listeners of this show.
Okay, so… I changed my plan a little bit.
Follow me for a moment here because I also mentioned that I am soon going to be shutting down the Free Management Course which is, at the time of this recording, still live in case you want to register. I’m shutting down that course because I am going to be putting together a new free video series for YourBestManager.com and I am planning on taking the content from the current Free Management Course, revamping it and putting together a brand new leadership course.
I’ve already started some of the work on the new leadership course, but I’ve decided through the process to test out a platform called Udemy.
Maybe you are familiar with Udemy, maybe you’re not, but it’s essentially a website, where you can go sign up and take courses on pretty much anything from art to yoga to programming to web design to gardening to marketing to, of course, leadership and management.
Alright, so let me connect the dots here.
Instead of putting together the epic hiring guide, like I planned, I’m putting together a complete Udemy course on hiring which will basically be the epic hiring guide in course form.
So it’s going to have video lectures, worksheets, templates, and additional resources and recommended tools to help you through every step of the hiring process.
It’s a way for me to test out the Udemy platform before I complete the full leadership course revamp and it also allows me to deliver something extremely valuable to managers who are looking to hire their first employee or maybe even their 100th employee and want to do it better and want to make great decisions.
Okay, so what does this mean for you?
Well, I’m going to be charging a small amount for people to take this course on hiring, BUT, I’m also going to be giving out a time-limited discount code once the course goes live, so that you can get it for free.
So if you are interested in signing up for the course, It’s called The Ultimate Manager’s Guide to Hiring: Find Applicants, Identify Promising Candidates, Screen & Interview Potential Employees, and Make Great Hiring Decisions.I WANT TO MAKE GREAT HIRING DECISIONS!
Now, if you have already signed up for the hiring guide I promised a couple weeks ago, then you are already on the list.
So once the course is complete, which should be by the end of next week (I hope… maybe the week after), I’ll send you the discount code.
And all that I ask in return is that you leave a positive review if you enjoy the course.
Okay, and with that said, let’s jump into today’s topic.
One-On-One Meetings – They’re Kind Of A Big Deal!
Last Monday I talked about how to run a great meeting and at the end of the show, I told you that one of the ways that I approach meetings is to consistently hold short, 25 minute one-on-one meetings with each of my employees, ideally every week. But with that said, for me personally I’ve only had 4 direct reports at one time, so weekly one-on-one meetings was quite doable.
Anyway, the topic for today’s episode then is, One-on-One meetings.
What they are, why they are effective, and how to run them.
What is a One-on-One meeting?
Well, quite simply, a one-on-one meeting is a meeting between two people. The manager and the employee. But here’s the key thing, and if you listened to episode 48 with Cassie Whitlock from BambooHR, you might remember this, but the key thing is that while it is your responsibility as the manager to organize, schedule, and ultimately ensure the meeting is a good use of time… it’s not your meeting. It’s your employee’s meeting and it’s your employee’s agenda.
And I really want to drive this point home.
If every manager held consistent one-on-one meetings with each of their direct reports and talked about what their employees wanted to talk about… this world would be different.
Employee engagement would increase, innovation would increase, businesses would thrive, economies would thrive… so many good things would happen.
Why do I feel so strongly about this?
Because statistics show that most employees walk into work apathetic or disengaged every day. And because it’s way easier to point out a bad boss than it is a good boss. And because one of the biggest complaints from employees is that their boss doesn’t know them. Doesn’t know their wants, their needs, their aspirations… and worse than that, doesn’t ask or doesn’t give opportunities for them to share that information.
That’s why these one-on-one meetings can be so effective.
Because what if?
What if each of your employees could honestly say that you, as their boss, know what they are working toward, know what they are struggling with at work, know where they need support, and know where they want to be led and challenged? And beyond that, can say that they get time every week, one on one with you, to talk about how they can grow and develop.
This is huge when it comes to employee engagement, and if you want some further support on this, check out some of the stats and research I cited during episode 31, where I asked the question, Do Millennial Managers Make Better Leaders.
Let me also say one more thing before we get into the practical aspect of how to actually plan, schedule and run these meetings.
I’m going to link up two additional resources in the show notes that both support what I’m talking about today and allow for some further training and development.
The first resource is going to be a couple podcast episodes on One-on-One meetings that were produced by Manager Tools back in 2005, and Manager Tools is an extremely practical leadership podcast I’ve mentioned on this show before and one that I highly recommend you subscribe to.
The Manager Tools Podcast on One-on-One Meetings:
The other resource is a link to Ken Blanchard’s Situational Leadership II Training (SLII). If you aren’t familiar with Ken Blanchard, he’s the best selling author of a number of books including The One Minute Manager, Gung Ho!, Raving Fans, and The Heart of a Leader, among several others.
Ken Blanchard Companies Training
I took his Situational Leadership II Course a number of years ago and it was the first time I was introduced to one-on-one meetings. And really the principle of Situational Leadership is to manage people based on tasks and their competency on each task instead of managing people based on their overall capabilities, experience level, or general performance. So if you want more, it’s good stuff.
Why One-on-One Meetings Are Worth Your Time
Okay so, obviously I think that one-on-ones are a great idea, and it’s pretty clear that your employees will appreciate some time with you to discuss what’s important to them, but how does actually help you be a better leader? And how can you justify 25 minutes with each direct report on a regular basis?
Well let’s start by defining what I mean by a regular basis and the ideal frequency of these meetings. So as I’ve mentioned, I think these one-on-one meetings should be weekly. There is so much that happens between Monday and Friday and each week is filled with different challenges, different successes, different emotions even and most professionals typically think about productivity in terms of what can I accomplish this week?
Because of this, it makes sense to regularly sit down with each of your employees each and every week.
Of course, once your team grows beyond 5 direct reports, time management can become a bit of a hurdle, so, this isn’t about being rigid. If you have the time, take it. If not, modify the frequency of the one-on-one meetings to bi-weekly.
If you have a very large team and even bi-weekly sounds difficult. Well, don’t meet one-on-one with everyone. You have your star players, you have the top performers and the people you count on to drive change within your department or business, so just meet with those key employees.
Then, depending on how your organization is structured, you could teach those key employees how to run one-on-ones with the remaining employees you don’t have time to sit down with. This can prepare your key employees for management positions and gives you an opportunity to pulse check how your entire team is doing, without killing your productivity. Of course, when another employee needs some one-on-one time with you… you’ll know about it, and you’ll be able to carve that time into your schedule.
But one more thing on this topic of frequency before we move on. I really believe that if you are unable to take the time to meet with your direct reports, you either have too many direct reports and you need to promote some supervisors or managers to support you… OR, you aren’t managing your time very well right now.
That’s okay, because I want to encourage you that running consistent one-on-one meetings, ideally weekly, can save you all the time you spend on them, and more!
That’s because if you don’t regularly meet with your team for intentional discussion, you are probably doing one of two things wrong.
You are either not spending enough time with your team and are therefore not involved enough in the business to make good decisions, which is costing your time and potentially even money in lost productivity because you aren’t being an effective leader.
You are spending too much time, wasting too much time with you employees.
Let me explain how this one works, because it’s plagued me.
You are sitting in your office, working away, and then a question pops up, or an idea pops up, or you are reminded of something you need to communicate. So what do you do? You stop what you are doing, leave your office and head out onto the production floor or your employee’s desk or office, and you address the issue. Or maybe, you stop and you type out an email and you don’t have time to go and talk to your team, but this is a distraction.
This happens over and over again.
And it happens both ways.
When your employee runs into a problem, what do they do? They then run into your office to ask for some help.
Back and forth, real time conversation, which seems fluid and seems like a good idea, but it creates distractions and impacts focus and the ability for you and your employees to get work done.
Now of course, I’m not suggesting that you only talk to your employees once a week, but why not try this out?
- Once in the morning
- Once around lunch time, either before or after
- Once at the end of the day.
And that’s it… well, aside from your weekly 30 minute meeting.
So those career questions, those personal questions, those I’m struggling with questions, those “how am I doing’ questions, those important questions that you need to help your employees navigate? Well those are all contained into that 30 minute time block.
The daily questions, the roadblocks that pop up, well, they are covered before work starts, right before or right after a break of focus, which is the lunch hour, and at the end of the day.
Which allows you to focus on your work in between, allows your employees to focus on work in between. And then aside from emergencies, sets the tone that you are available to help but you are also in control of your schedule.
And another thing that this best practice does?
It removes the hovering manager who is seen more as a micromanaging helicopter parent than a true helper.
So are you convinced yet?
These one-on-ones can save you time!
Oh, actually, I’ve got one more benefit… scratch that, two more benefits.
Okay, so because you have a scheduled one-on-one meeting planned, that gives your employees time to prepare for the big discussions, gives them time to review their work ahead of time, and gives them a consistent checkpoint to work toward each week, which means that your interactions are more productive than on-the-fly interactions where you are more likely to either catch your team member off guard or engage in a conversation that maybe hasn’t been well thought out ahead of time.
And the last benefit?
If you’ve taken the free management course already, you know this… every week, you get an opportunity to review your employee’s personal and professional goals with them, hold them accountable, and provide support and encouragement as they accomplishing things that are meaningful and personally rewarding, through their work. That one is huge!
Which leads me conveniently into the practical piece. How do you actually run these meetings?
How To Run a One-on-One Meeting
Well, as I said, it’s their meeting, with their agenda, but you determine the structure for that agenda up front.[convertkit form=5015126]
Alright, so while you will only have 25 minutes or so to chat with your team member, there are a ton of things that you can cover and I’m going to break it down into 3 categories.
Each one-on-one meeting should start off with a Productivity Check-In, which is a pulse check on how that employee feels about their work, right now, this week. How they feel they are doing, what updates can they provide, what is the biggest challenge they are facing, and where do they need support.
You want to start here for two reasons.
First of all, you have a business to run and a job to get done, so it’s naturally going to be important to you, but secondly, and maybe most importantly, you want your team member to have a successful week, every week, and while the rest of the meeting agenda is important, the current task at hand or current project is probably the most urgent place you can help and provide support.
Now, if you have been doing regular, intentional check-ins each day, as I suggested, at the beginning, middle, and end of each day, and if you are asking great questions and being an inquisitive manager, you probably won’t be surprised here.
So 9 times out of 10, you will spent the least amount of time on this part of the meeting.
The next section is what I call, Opportunities. This is where your employee actually creates the agenda, and they do that by selecting topics for discussion. Now, the reason I don’t just call these topics, but I call them opportunities, is because the word opportunities has a positive connotation, meaning when your employee is sitting down at his or her desk, contemplating the topics of discussion, they’ll be thinking in terms of what can I do or accomplish, or where can I get support, instead of what’s going wrong and what can I complain about.
Just a little psychology hack there.
And as I just implied, this section is pre-planned and this part of the agenda is pre-populated by your employee, prior to the meeting.
I’ll talk about scheduling and structure in a few minutes, but as the manager, you should know about these discussion opportunities before the meeting so that you can prepare and aren’t put in an awkward situation where your employee wants to discuss a potential promotion when they aren’t even close to being ready. If you know that conversation is coming however, you can come to the meeting with some ideas and solutions instead of uncomfortable discouragement.
And there is no magic number for how many opportunities to discuss. It may be 1 or it may be 4. The point is to talk about what your employee wants to talk about.
Now, you are also going to want to instruct your team member on how to communicate these discussion opportunities, because if you receive the meeting agenda and all it says is, “my career”, you may not know whether or not it’s referring to training & development, a specific promotion opportunity, or that your team member is about to quit.
So in the Opportunities section of the agenda, for each discussion point, you want the answer to these three questions.
- Where do I feel confident?
- Where do I not feel confident?
- What kind of support am I looking for?
For the “My Career” example, perhaps your employee feels confident about where the next step is and what a promotion would look like. But, she doesn’t feel confident about what you need to see from her in order to give her the promotion. And the support she is looking for? She’d like some direction and results to work toward as well as a timeline to be put in place.
Now, let’s be honest.
The first couple of times that you do these one-on-one meetings, you are probably going to have to help your team member articulate the answers to some of these things, but the point is that if you had those answers before you sat down with your employee… you’d be ready to respond with exactly what she needs, right?
Okay, and then the last section is going to be typically pre-populated, but you are a great manager and you already know the personal and professional goals for each of your direct reports, right?
So what you have in that bottom section of the meeting agenda is simply the list of your employee’s top 3 personal and professional goals.
After you have discussed whatever opportunities your team member wanted support with, you get to do a simple review of how she is doing on accomplishing her goals, and how you can help her. Whether those goal are to save for a new house, travel to Mexico, lose some weight, earn a promotion, or get accepted into an MBA program. It really doesn’t matter.
If you can help your employee find the correlation between performance at work and personal achievement, you are going to have a more productive and engaged employee… and you are going to be that much closer to discovering and attaining some of the best awards that leadership has to offer.
Scheduling & Structuring One-on-One Meetings
Okay, so how does this all get scheduled and structured?
Well, for those of you who don’t have a pen and paper with you, I’ve got a simple template in the show notes that you can download.
And what I would do is set up a recurring calendar invite and do one of two things.
1. You can either include the agenda template as an attachment for your employee to fill out and send to you before the meeting,
(By the way, I recommend setting a deadline for that agenda as 4 hours before the meeting)
2. Or you can do this little hack. Sit down with your employee and have him or her create the recurring calendar invite and send it to you.
In the body of the calendar invite, will be the skeleton of the agenda. And as a discussion opportunity comes up, your employee can simply add it into the calendar invite which will automatically send an update to you. So if your meeting is on Thursday, but your employee thinks of a discussion point on Tuesday, she can simply put it into the agenda and you’ll know about it in real time, even though the rest of the agenda may not be set yet.
Pretty cool eh?
Of course, if you aren’t in an office environment, simply printing out the agenda and making a copy isn’t that big of a deal.
And that’s it! You’ve now got the structure for some incredible one-on-one meetings.
One-on-One meetings that happen for 25 minutes, every week, with your direct reports, where you get project updates or task updates on the urgent business matters of the week, where you get to provide support and feedback on some opportunities that are really important to your employees, and where you get to be an encouragement and an accountability partner as your employee works toward some really meaningful personal and professional goals.
I’d call that a win.[convertkit form=5015126]