How to Supercharge Your
One on One Meetings
Ignite performance and amp up engagement and discretionary effort because you are a "Rockstar" at holding an effective one on one meeting
The one meeting high-performance leaders don't miss or put off on a regular basis is the one on one meeting.
Because they are an invaluable tool for improving your own and your teams performance.
They are the secret sauce to gaining people's commitment and trust, which leads to higher levels of engagement and discretionary effort.
So how's your score-card for regular catch-ups with your team members?
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.
If you want to be a Rockstar leader - one who engages people and inspires them to their best performance, then you'll have one on ones scheduled into your diary at least fortnightly, if not weekly!
What your one on one meeting is not!
An effective one on on meeting is not for status updates. Where you are discussing priorities, deadlines, what they need help with. That should be happening in your daily huddle, or weekly team meeting.
The purpose of your one on ones
They are the place where you dig in deep to what is important for each person on your team. It's the place where you connect with them as a person.
Letting them know that you 'see' them. They are important. That you value them as an individual. As their leader you are there to support them to break through their frustrations and challenges and break into their potential.
Your purpose in setting up the regular one on one meetings is to come from a place of wanting more for others. Sincerely wanting to help them to get the personal and professional success they desire.
It just happens to be a nice consequence that it is likely you will get more discretionary effort, engagement, and productivity. But it shouldn't be your driving reason for holding one on ones. (See the Word of Warning at the end of the article)
Two main types of one on ones
You might be wondering about the type of content in each meeting. You'll hold effective one on one meetings using these two main types:
1. Personal development
(Space to Talk!)
The first is as Personal Development meetings. Where you're talking with your people about their professional hopes, dreams, and desires.
If people don't feel their hopes and dreams are important to somebody in the company - the place in which they spend the vast majority of their waking hours - then you're likely to have people who are fairly disengaged.
You're not talking specifically about work projects and tasks. You’re looking more broadly at how they feel about their career and their experience of work. 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. (I like to call them 'Space To Talk').
2. Work issues/frustrations
The second is where you are uncovering potential issues in the work. Things going wrong with processes/work flows. Tensions in the team.
The 'Potential Issues' meetings are the ones you are likely to feel most comfortable with. And therefore, you'll probably tend to fall into talking about these types of issues the most.
That would be a mistake!
By using the questions below you'll be able to ensure that you have well-rounded conversations that dig deep and shift you from being a regular leader who focuses solely on 'work stuff'. To being a Rockstar leader, who is committed to transforming: people, profit, planet!
The benefits of having regular one on one meetings
When you get the content of your 1 on 1 meetings right, you massively hit all 4Bs of high-performance.
When people believe in their organization, their leader, their team, their degree of engagement goes up.
Your one on one is the place where you can connect them with the organization's vision.
Where you can firm up their belief in the impact of the work they do and the impact it has on the success of the company.
For people to perform at their best, they must know that they are accepted and that this community appreciates them.
Spending time 1 on 1 with a person confirms to them that they are important to you. When that happens people's level of discretionary effort goes up.
You know this to be true.
Think of a leader you liked and who seemed to like you.
Wouldn't you have walked over hot coals for him or her?
Your regular one on one meetings give you the opportunity to give quick regular feedback and coaching.
This ensures that slips in behaviors are quickly negotiated. They don't fester and become a massive problem for you and the team as a whole.
Importantly, if you set it up correctly and YOU act appropriately, you'll be able to get life and career changing feedback from your team members about your behaviors that are getting in the way of success.
Performance improves and you'll be able to fine-tune with your team members how to think and act like a business partner rather than a good worker.
To dig deeper into the 4Bs of High-Performance Leadership framework sign up for our free course "Improve Employee Performance"
If You Aren't Scheduling 'Space To Talk' 1-on-1 Meetings ...
You probably don't have strong relationships with your people - which is costing you career success!
One on one meeting hassles
There are probably two challenges that come to mind when you think about holding regular one on one meetings.
First, your diary is already over-filled - and you don't have time to spare.
Secondly, spending time in conversations with your team members might raise more problems than you're willing to deal with.
Let's see if we can find the motivation to overcome those challenges
Finding the time in your busy diary
Let's start with the over-full diary. Possibly not spending time with your people, is the cause of you running in the hamster wheel.
The upside of having regular one on one meetings is that you may discover you have people who are eager to get at some of the work that you are feeling overwhelmed by.
For example, during a Space to Talk with one of my team members, I discovered her desire to do more analysis work. It was something she loved, and I loathed.
By spending time getting to know which of her strengths she wanted to use more of, we were both able to get our needs met! Not only that ... by delegating some of my work to her and enabling her to work to her strengths, it ultimately lead her into several great career opportunities.
Use the information, tips and ideas in the Time Genie training and the How To Delegate So You Get It Done, Done Well and Done On Time training to help you create the time and space to conduct these regular meetings.
More problems landing in your lap
Regarding them raising problems you don't want to deal with. It's better to catch problems when they are small blips on the radar, rather than major crises.
You'll find your one on ones will pay huge dividends to you in terms of trust and being able to keep your finger on the pulse of your team and its culture. But do take note of the Fine-Tuning tip below regarding Who Does, What, By When.
How often should you have Space to Talk meetings?
Well, at least monthly, maybe fortnightly. Most of the Rockstar leaders I coach hold them weekly. It depends somewhat on the size of your team. Also, they don't have to be hour-long meetings. Sometimes a 10-15 minute check-in is enough.
But at least once a month, one of your meetings should be a one-hour meeting. Because a 10-15 minute check-in doesn't let you dig deep. An effective one on one meeting is not a shallow conversation. It is a place to dig deep and to lead your team members into their potential.
What to talk about
How to make these conversations boring/a waste of time!
An effective one on one meeting does not start with: "How's it going?"
That's the type of question that will either open up a can of worms and/or you'll hear crickets, as the person flounders to find an appropriate response.
It is human instinct to go to what isn't working. It is also true that most people don't want to be known as a 'whingy-whiner.'
An effective one on one meeting uses targeted questions to enable quality conversations
To avoid this challenge, you need to have an abundance of questions ready, that gives them 'permission' to bring up the awkward topics, but in a way that is a positive experience for each of you.
You also want to keep some balance in the conversation by asking them questions about what is working.
If you don't get the balance right, it will be a dissatisfying experience for each of you.
Don't focus on daily work tasks.
As mentioned earlier, this isn't the point of these conversations. The workflow/task conversations are part of your daily huddle meeting or your team's weekly tactics meeting.
An effective one on one meeting builds Believing and Belonging
As we noted earlier, these Space To Talk conversations are about building all four Bs of high performance - but in particular Believing and Belonging:
There are four key areas you cover in an effective one on one meeting:
Managing expectations at the initial one on one meeting
At your initial one on one meeting you have with your team member set expectations about what you can and can't do to support him or her.
Having these meetings can open up the team member to wanting more:
and so forth. You have to be a bit like a juggler, balancing their hopes and expectations with what you and the organization can realistically deliver and they are capable of achieving.
You could share this principle with your team member to guide the tone of your one on one meetings: There are no guarantees only opportunities.
That principle should help remind your team member that she or she is in charge of his or her destiny, but you are here to support him or her to transform.
So, when you are setting up that first one on meeting session with your team member, your conversation should be along the lines of something like:
“This is your space to think about your professional life and what you can do to make it the very best it can be. You'll spend 90,000+ hours at work in your lifetime, so it is your responsibility to ensure they are mostly good ones.
"There is only so much I can do to support you experiencing a great professional life. The truth is that it is you who are entirely responsible for your life being all it can be.
"Sure, where I can, I will help you access the resources you need, to help you maintain the mindset and thinking for .....
Access the entire script when you sign up for the Training
The entire 400+ word initial one on one meeting script to help you set expectations is not available in the free article.
To access the entire initial one on one meeting script (which you can also use as an email template) access the 1-1 Meeting Training
Now obviously change that script up to suit you, but you get the intent of how that conversation should sound. Most people will be pretty pleased that you are taking an interest in them and that you want to support their success.
If you do say the sentence about being their coach, it gives you the head nod to address, quickly and easily, any performance issues you see happening in the daily work context.
Having had a conversation like this up front, it then makes it easier when they start to raise things you can't deliver. You can quickly remind them of this discussion and move forward into areas where you can support them.
Follow up the initial one on one meeting with an email
I'd follow up the initial one on one meeting with an email outlining much of what is contained in the script to manage expectations. People hear different things in meetings, so following up with something written will ensure you have something you can refer back to.
Preparing for the Regular Meeting
I coach leaders who just go in to the meeting with no agenda. Others who have a prepared agenda that they and their team member build together before the meeting.
Both styles can work. It will be somewhat dependent upon the relationship you have.
If you have a fractured relationship an agenda is probably a safer bet. However, be IN the meeting not AT the meeting.
So, remind yourself before you go into the meeting that one of the reasons for holding a Space To Talk meeting is exactly that. Talk! Talk and build a relationship.
Use the Sample Template/Trello board to help you prepare. In using the sample questions below, it may be a good idea to let your team member know the focus area (questions) you'd like to spend time talking about. (or share the Trello board with him/her).
Use these as your Guiding Principles for this meeting:
- This meeting is about my team member more than about me
- This meeting is the space to talk in deep about issues that are important to my team member
- The more involved my team is in setting the content of the meeting, the higher the degree his/her engagement
- We need to get a good balance of development and business improvement
Sample one on one meeting questions
Below are some sample questions you could use. 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 the one on one meetings don't become stale.
Use them to dig deep with your team member. This is a place where you can really show your leadership chops. Management happens when you are moving data - spreadsheets/emails/ etc!
If you want another 80+ questions you could use, then download the Training & Resources for this article
Fine-tuning a more effective one on meeting
Making the meetings flow freely
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.
When you do this, it becomes more informal. It shifts energy, and you'll be surprised at how much more open your team member becomes.
Or if the weather is lousy, then go to a local coffee shop. Get out of the power seat and create a more collegiate experience.
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 expeditiously.
Prioritise them like Doctor's appointments!
Make sure you schedule the meetings into both your diaries as a permanent meeting. Sure, 'stuff' will come up from time to time and you'll need to shift. However, do try to avoid shifting the meeting too often.
You don't want to signal to your team member that their needs are low on your priorities list.
As well, do make sure you don't have back-to-back meetings around these Space-To-Talk meetings. It won’t enable you to be fully 'present' with your team member if you are stressing about the meeting before or the meeting to come.
Once you're in the habit of holding your 'Space to Talk' meetings, you can ask your team member to take responsibility for running the agenda. To come to the meeting with thoughts and ideas on what they want to do to get the most from their work experience.
Who Does What, by When
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 the creation of an inspired action plan.
Furthermore, 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 helps 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.
Word of Warning
It goes without saying, but I'm going to say it anyway! If you are holding one on ones just to look good .... just to put another gold star on your leaderboard – don't bother!
People will see straight through you.
If you ask the personal questions (family, history etc) just to tick a checkbox don't. You have to genuinely care about and want to build strong connections.
Connection is critical.
People will only extend trust to you when they know you 'see' them. That you have a handle on their identity as an individual.
When you don't know your people well, the sense people have is that you only need workers … not them 'the individual'. That you would easily replace them with anyone.
If that is how you treat your people, then fully expect that they will pack their bags and move on to somewhere that they are seen as an important player. (Particularly the good 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 about my success.
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.
One on one's aren't a magic elixir!
Sure, you'll need to have more in play than 1-on-1 meetings, to get people firing on all cylinders ... to build a rockstar team. However, making the time for 'Space to Talk' is one of the foundational stepping stones.
When the people working with you aren't committed to you, your leadership and your team's success it means you:
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 inspires themselves and others to transform: people, profit, planet. You want to be an inspiring leader don't you?
Not included in this free article
Access the Training & Resources for this information.
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.
Reading between the lines, this means that your organization wants you to grow a strong team bench for the future. If you aren't doing this (and doing it well), you aren't performing your job to the hilt, and you are certainly putting the brakes on your career.
You are acting like a Charmer or Contributor leader rather than a Rockstar leader. Find out more about how to assess where you and your team members sit in this model (you might be very surprised) with our free training Tools to Improve Employee Performance
One on ones can be a potent tool for you. They can also be fraught with danger. Manage the danger, manage the expectations well. Run the meetings well and give full accountability to the individual.
Your Space to Talk meetings will become a great tool to help you create a high-performance rockstar team.
You'll set your career on the fast-track, as you develop an exceptionally strong bench of team members.
Want to dive deeper on holding an effective one on meeting?
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: