Meetings are the double-edged swords of the workplace.
To get things done you need face-to-face meetings. By getting everyone in a room to collaborate, you save yourself from death by a thousand emails. But when the day comes to a close, a common refrain heard coast to coast, “I can’t get anything done because I am in meetings all day.”
A while back I shared tips for the execution of productive meetings. What I did not discuss in great detail is how managers go about ensuring great one-on-one meetings with their employees.
To help managers maximize this time, here are 10 tips for ensuring productive check-ins with employees.
1. Respect the time.
The most important part of the one-on-one is actually having it. During the week it gets easy to prioritize other meetings so you can address fire drills and other impromptu needs. Things come up and you sacrifice the check-ins because “there is always next week.” Don’t fall into this trap. Keep the time as an unmovable, and do your best to always show up on time.
2. Make it a safe place to share concerns.
Employees should feel like their one-on-one are a safe place to speak freely. Whether they want to know more about direction of the business or their own personal performance, they should never be afraid to ask a question or share concerns.
In my role as a leader at Porch.com, oftentimes I ask my people, “What keeps you up at night”? Sometimes just talking makes a positive impact towards better engagement.
3. Be honest -- when you don’t know, you don’t know.
The worst thing you can do is lie or set inaccurate expectations. You may not have answers to all of their questions – and that is OK. If you don’t know, you don’t know. Acknowledge their request and make a commitment to finding the right answer and follow up with accurate information in your next check-in.
4. Be a coach, not a dictator.
As a manager you need to spend more time listening and less time talking. When your employee is stuck and looking for a solution, don’t just jump in with the answer. Help them determine the right outcome and coach them. Ask questions that guide. If you can do this two things will happen. First, they will be far more vested in the solution because they will feel like they truly had a hand in its development. Second, you are teaching them important skills they can use the next time a similar problem arises.
5. Help them grow as communicators.
One of the hardest things for people to master is the art of communication. How you speak to people in certain situations. How you have difficult conversations with others. How you write meaningful emails. How you run effective meetings. So much of our day-to-day success hinges on our ability to successfully communicate. Managers should spend time helping others become great communicators.
6. Ask what YOU can do better.
Demonstrate your own self-awareness and find out what you can do better. If you are managing multiple people, you will find they all have different styles and personalities. You need to have some chameleon like qualities so you can get the best out of them. By understanding what you can specifically do for them, the easier it will be to have a strong working relationship.
7. Make career development a priority.
I spend most of my one-on-ones discussing near-term priorities and goals. However there is a real need for meaningful and regular conversations around career development. What do people really want to do as their career matures? Do they have the right mentors? Are they working on the right projects? If you maintain a regular cadence where you focus on this topic, you can help make future transitions far more seamless and fulfilling.
8. Remove barriers for them.
A while back I wrote about the goal of a great manager, which is to get the best out of their people. A really important function of management is to help remove roadblocks and barriers for employees. Do they understand how business gets done? Do they know who the decision makers are? Do they understand the right dependencies? If you can help them understand their path to success and clear the road of obstacles before they get there, the result if often a more efficient and productive employee.
9. Leave your laptop at your desk.
If you are going to be present and have a conversation, then be present. Don’t bring your laptop unless you are using it collaboratively. If you are only giving part-time attention you should expect part-time results. Thirty minutes of quality, laptops-closed time is not too much for anyone to ask for.
10. End on a positive note.
Even when you are having a tough one-on-one and the news you deliver is not good, don’t underestimate the power of ending on a positive note. You don’t need to set off fireworks and throw a parade, but you can get people from good to great if you are able to keep them motivated and operating with an optimistic and positive frame of mind.
Related: How to Master Your Next Meeting