Don't Let 1 on 1 Meetings With Your Team Members Sabotage Your Career Success

Do all the people who report to you like, respect and want to walk over hot coals for you? If so, go back to work ... this article isn't for you. However, if you've got strained relationships, people who don't 'get' where you are leading, who are frustrating the beejeepers out of you ... read on!

Do This First

Grab your calendar and count up the number of 1-on-1 meetings that you had scheduled (and possibly more importantly, attended!) with your team members during the past month.

And, I don't mean meetings where you're discussing work content and projects they have got going on. Those types of meetings should be happening weekly, where you are looking at their priorities, deadlines, what they need help with etc - and you walk away from the meeting with very clear plans and on who does what, by when)

What Makes One-on-Ones Different

One-on-one Personal Development meetings are where you're talking with your people about their hopes, dreams and desires. You're not talking specifically about work projects and tasks. You're more broadly looking at how they feel about their career and their experience of work in a general nature. What they are happy, worried or frustrated about!

You can call these meetings 'Personal Development' meetings, 'Space to Talk' meetings, 'Thinking About Where You Are Heading' meetings ... find a title that works for you, your team and the culture you are creating.

If you did have (I like to call them 'Space To Talk') one-on-ones scheduled with your team members - well done you! But do be mindful of the Word of Warning given below.

One On Ones

The Dangers of Not Having Regular One-on-One Meetings

If you aren't having regular one-on-ones to talk about their individual success, my guess would be that your team members are likely only to walk over a very small amount of hot coals for you (and with their shoes on!) to help you and the team succeed.

Now, before you dismiss this as one of those soft and fluffy things you just simply don't have the time for; I'm going to urge you to just suspend that belief for a small moment and think about - how much it is costing you not spending time helping your team members to "Believe" (one of the 4B's in High Performance) in you and your leadership?

If your people don't feel that their hopes and dreams are important to somebody - in the organization in which they spend the vast majority of their waking hours - then you're likely to have people who are fairly disengaged.

If you aren't scheduling ‘Space To Talk' 1-on-1 meetings ...

You probably don't have strong relationships with your people

Sure, there is more to getting people firing on all cylinders ... coming to work with a spring in their step ... than just 1-on-1 meetings. However, making the time for 'Space to Talk' is a foundational stepping stone.

A great benefit of stepping out of 'work mode' and moving into 'connect mode', is that you also get to stay on top of any tensions that may be bubbling under the surface. Being able to discuss concerns gives people confidence that course corrections can occur in a timely manner.

When the people working with you aren't committed to you, your leadership and your team's success it:

  • means your career stagnates
  • means you deliver lower results
  • means that you don't get superstars into your team
  • means that you're just another leader not an inspiring leader.

And, seriously, why are you a part of the Make A Dent Leadership family, if you aren't somebody who wants to make a dent? Someone who wants to be inspired and inspiring!

The hassles in having 1-on-1 meetings

You know only too well the challenge of having regular catch-ups with your people. It is your diary is already over-filled and spending time in conversations with your team members might raise more problems than you're willing to deal with.

Let's deal with the over-full diary. Possibly not spending time with your people is the cause of why you're running in the hamster wheel. And upside of having one-on-ones is that you may discover you have people who are eager to get at some of the work that you are feeling overwhelmed by.

In terms of them raising problems you don't want to deal with ... it's better to catch them when they are small blips on radar, rather than major crises.

How often should you have Space to Talk meetings? Well at least monthly, and if possible fortnightly. It depends somewhat on the size of your team. And remember these aren't the regular weekly catchups on workflow and coaching on improving task completion.

Finding The Time In Your Busy Diary

How do you carve out the time? Use the information, tips and ideas in the Time Management workbook and the Get It Done, Done Well and Done On Time delegation ebook to help you create the time and space to conduct these regular meetings.

And finally, if you aren't fully convinced you need to create the time ... go back and read your Position Description - I bet it has somewhere in it that you are responsible for the coaching and development of your team. And reading between the lines, this means that your organization wants you to grow a strong team bench for them for the future. If you aren't doing this (and doing it well), you aren't performing your job fully and you are certainly putting the brakes on your career.

Ideas to Generate Discussion.

Keep this front of mind.

The "Space to Talk" meeting really is about the team member, not about work. Having said that there are probably four key areas you could cover in the conversation:

  • The team member him or herself. Their hopes, dreams and frustrations
  • You as his or her leader. What you should stop, start, continue doing
  • The team. What's working not working
  • The company. What's exciting, scary, confusing

Below are some sample questions. You wouldn't ask these questions one after the other every session. Mix it up, play around with them. They are simply guides you can use, so you don't get too stale in those meetings.

  1. What are your hopes and dreams for your career?

  2. What would make for the best work environment?

  3. What sort of work really excites you?

  4. What worries/frustrates you - top 3 issues - short and long-term?

  5. Are you doing enough of what you like?

  6. Are you doing too much of what you don't like?

  7. What can we do to change these things and make them better?

  8. What skills do you bring to the table we aren't using?

  9. What are your strengths that you'd like to play to more?

  10. What weaknesses are you working upon - is it a good use of your time? Is your strategy working?

  11. What will stop you from being successful?

  12. What was the one thing your last leader did that you like, that I don't do?

  13. What do I do that you don't like? Is there anything I should, stop, start, continue doing?

  14. What makes this week a .....?

  15. What have you learned/changed improved in the past few weeks (looking for their continuous improvement - in themselves and in their work flow)

  16. Who in your team have you developed skills in/coached/improved performance?

  17. What rumors have you heard that you're concerned about, want more information about? (This helps them to get to the truth rather than the rumor mill)

If you want another 23 questions you could use, then download the Execution Plan for this article

Fine-Tuning ...

  • Give thought to making these meetings 'walk and talks'. That is, instead of being stuck behind a desk in a very formal environment, try taking a walk around the block, so that it becomes more informal, shifts energy and you'll be surprised at how much more open your team member will be.

  • Once you're in the habit of holding your 'Space to Talk' meetings, you can ask your team member to take responsibility for running their own agenda. To come to the meeting with thoughts and ideas on what they want to do to get the most from their work experience.

  • Any meeting you have ... from a performance improvement meeting to a team meeting to a Space to Talk meeting, a who does what by when should be the final point of the meeting.

    This shifts it from being a nice rambling chat into an inspired action plan. 

    And here's something to keep in the back of your mind. Make sure that your team member is the one who is taking most of the responsibility for who does what by when. Sure, there will be some items you should take on, because you have the positional power, or sway that your team member doesn't. However, as a leader, who is focused on helping people to be self-managing and self-accountable you want them to be the one who is taking the actions needed to achieve their hopes and dreams.

    Follow up with an email. I like to make the team member responsible for it. Having said that, knowing that some of my team members are high on Influence (using the DISC profile), I'm more inclined to do the who does what by when email. This takes account of the differences in style of each team member. If I didn't my high Influencers might forget what they said they would do. Not because they are being obtuse, but because they just 'forget'.

Word of Warning

It goes without saying, but I'm going to say it anyway - if you are holding 1-on-1 meetings just to look good, just to put another gold star on your leader board - don't bother!

People will see straight through you.

You need to be coming from that place of really wanting more for others ... and sincerely wanting to help them to get that ... and it just happens as a nice consequence that is it is likely you too will get more (but it shouldn't be your driving reason for holding one-on-ones).

I had a leader who took me on monthly one-on-ones where he asked the right questions and made the right comments ... BUT ... his behavior outside of that monthly meeting told me he really didn't give a rip.

It was blindingly obvious, to me, and the rest of the team, that he was narcissistically going through a process so he could tick a box. All his one-on-ones did was breed greater cynicism and lower levels of desire, by most of the team, to go the extra mile for him.

Get The 1-on-1 Meeting Execution Plan

If you want tap more deeply into my experience at holding successful Space to Talk Meetings, to get the 'how-to's' and the 'what to avoids' Click here to get:

  • A script you can use to manage Team Member expectations (so these don't become conversations where team members are expecting promotions and/or pay-rises that you can't deliver upon),

  • Tips on how to make it safe for them to open up about their career hopes - even if those hopes are for something outside of your organization,

  • What and how to avoid the trap of the Leadership Pygmalion effect in these conversations

  • How to avoid making these conversations boring!

  • An additional 23 questions you can use in your conversations

  • How to turn the meeting from a nice chat into an inspired action plan

  • The pdf and the audio of this article


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