Necessary, but torturous, is how most people would characterize the scheduled face to face meeting, whether management or employee. After all, when you work with people on a daily basis, what could you possibly have to discuss that would require a one-on-one? Actually, quite a bit.
Having a regular time (ideally weekly) for the one-on-one establishes a sense of order and gives your staff the opportunity to voice opinions and concerns they might hesitate to share in a team setting. A wise manager can turn these from casual to truly productive and even enjoyable. Here are a few strategies to make the one-on-ones something your reporters look forward to.
Set a time, keep it brief
A good manager communicates with his employees. It's something they can count on, a reliable time to have the undivided attention of their supervisor. Making a time-certain of around a half hour gives ample opportunity to address details without belaboring an issue beyond necessary. More complicated things can be shelved until the next meeting or may be brought up in group discussions.
Keep it open-ended
Of course there are specific items that have to be addressed, but keep it from being lopsided on the part of management. If the employee has latitude to reveal his or her perspective, they have a sense of equity in the process. Listen earnestly. This lets them understand that you value the skills and intellect for which they were hired in the first place.
You're both on the same team
But remember that you are the coach. There is no denying you have more power, but a good leader doesn't need to dictate. Your common goal is to produce a product that creates value and results in profit. Trust in their abilities and you won't be disappointed.
Just being the boss doesn't make you smarter. Guiding your employees is better than driving them. There are times when you have to make hard decisions, but a weekly one-on-one is not the time for that. Use this for motivation and encouragement to strengthen the foundation of your operation with loyalty and commitment.
The big picture
Common information travels through the office electronically. Use this time to get to know what they really think. It's the perfect opportunity to connect personally with the individuals who make the company function. And the perfect time to catch things that might derail operations if left unattended.
One-on-ones are a human spreadsheet, a real time snapshot of the state of your team, the status of a project and the health of the organization. One-on-ones give you a more intimate understanding of the people who work for you; and that makes you a better manager. The one-on-one is a tool to make your company run more smoothly and it will pay dividends in higher productivity and talent retention.
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