One of the great lessons I have learned the hard way is how to hold effective one-on-one meetings with my employees. OK, I’ll be honest, I didn’t do this in most of my early leadership positions. Instead I relied heavily on team meetings to get specific updates from each employee with the hope that sharing all the project updates in the meeting would keep everyone happy. I’ve since learned that the key to keeping employees motivated and productive is to have a strong relationship with them. Rewards are nice but they can never replace the results you will achieve through a relationship with you employee. Don’t repeat my mistakes. Learn from them and start off with a bang.
1. Schedule the regular meeting and don’t miss it.
Find a great time to meet with your employee and stick to it. I work to meet with each of my direct reports once a week. I often let the employee find the best time slot that works for them and for me. Once we put the meeting on the calendar, I try to never miss the meeting. If you miss the meeting once, it is OK. If you find that you are missing the meeting on a regular basis, then you are telling your employee that they do not matter. Schedules are difficult to control, but you must control the time with the employee and be consistent all the time. When you have a problem with interruptions, double booked schedules, or other issues during this time slot, simply reschedule the meeting to a time that works best for each of you. I watch too many other managers blow off their employees for some important meeting. Never do that!
2. Have a conversation
Remember those team project meetings that I mentioned, I still hold those to get project updates. My one-on-one meetings are about the employee and what I can do to help them. In order to help your employee you must spend time listening to them. This means that you must close your mouth and listen to what they have to say. The reality is that the most popular subject for any of us is ourselves. So let your employee talk about how they are doing, what is affecting them, and where they need help. I learned that I can talk about myself at a later time.
3. Pay Attention
Listening to your employee means that you must really be engaged. Listen to what the employee is telling you. Respond by taking notes and asking engaging questions like “How does that make you feel?” or “Is that the right solution for the problem?” The employee should walk away from the conversation feeling as if they talked with someone who really cared. And you should.
4. Focus on accountabilities
As you get to the end of the meeting, you should be focused on action items for both of you. What can you do to clear the obstacles out of the way for your employee? What actions will the employee complete as part of their tasks? You are not meeting to just talk. You are meeting to help your employee be more productive and to motivate the employee. I like using the GROW method. Goal. Reality. Opportunity. Way Forward or action items. Start with the goal the employee was trying to achieve. Dig into the reality of what happened – good and bad. Identify the opportunities to fix the issue, find a solution, or move forward. Create clear action items to show the employee how to move forward.
By doing this, the employee knows that you not only truly care about them and their performance, you are also there to help them succeed.
5. Consistent Structure
I provide my employees with a consistent structure for all the meetings. I divide the meetings, usually 30 minutes, into three general focus points.
First, how is the employee doing? This could be around their family, friends, weekend activities. You learn a great deal about your employee during this time. (5-10 minutes)
Second, how can you help them in their job? Walk the employee through the GROW method to get to what is actually happening vs what was expected to happen. Coach them through each of the phases to deliver better results. This is the goal they hoped to reach and reality of life and work. (10-20 minutes)
Third, find out what obstacles you can help clear out of their path. These are your opportunities you find in the conversation to clear the way for the employee to be productive. These opportunities must result in action items where your employee is crystal clear on what they need to do, when it is due, and how they are going to get there. You are crystal clear on how you are going to clear obstacles out of their way so that the are successful. I always make sure that the employee knows my action items and when they are due as well. (5 minutes)
I have followed these steps to great success with my employees. When new employees have joined they are usually quite surprised that I spend more time learning about them rather than telling them what they should be doing. It totally changes the mood and results.