From Ordinary to Awesome Employee-Manager One-to-One's Five tips for making meetings the employee-engagement tools they should be.

By Beth Miller

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Many of my clients have taken up the routine of having one-to-one meetings with their direct reports. And that"s the problem; these meetings often become routine and dull. So, how do you as a manager-leader, have awesome one-to-ones that both you and your employees don't dread? Here are five tips to keeping those meetings fresh and awesome.

Related: 7 Ways to Manage Your Most Motivated and Talented Employees

1. It's about them, not you.

Remember that one-to-ones aren't about you and your needs. They're about the employee. This means that your time should be spent asking great questions and actively listening to what your team member has to say. The meeting is not about updates on tasks and projects, but it does give the employee the platform to voice his or her concerns about things like team relations and resources constraints, as well as the employee's personal career development.

This is also the time to ask your employee for feedback on you. What could you be doing to help him or her be more successful? What behaviors do you have that are challenging to your employees? And here is the hard part: Don't get defensive. Listen to your employee's views and just say "thank you." Doing this will help you, as a leader, have better interactions with the employee and ultimately increase employee engagement and productivity.

2. Change up the environment.

More often than not, one-to-ones happen in a manager's office or conference room. Every once in a while, you should change it up. Take your one-to-one outside the office to a nearby park or just the surrounding grounds of your building. Walking and talking has huge benefits in building relationships, creativity and health. Go to the building café and meet over a cup of coffee, or go off site for lunch. Making the one-to-one relaxed will help put employees at ease and encourage them to open up and be transparent.

3. Make it a dialogue.

A discussion's emphasis is not about learning but winning, while a dialogue is just the opposite. The primary purpose of a dialogue is to expand ideas, not to diminish them. It's not about winning acceptance for your viewpoint, but exploring options and gaining agreement on next steps. This is really important, to continue to build trust from your team member.

Related: Managing People Is an Art: 32 Ways to Do it Right.

4. Coach them.

When you spot a trend or theme with your employee that could hold him or her back, it is time to put your coach hat on. Remember that coaching is different from mentoring. The goal of coaching is to ask questions that allow your employee to reflect on how his or her behaviors and actions are impacting others, to explore options on how to adjust and to make the commitment to take action.

5. Make your points accountable.

Before concluding the one-to-one, make sure that each of you has actionable items you are responsible for. The items should follow the SMART goal model: "specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-sensitive." And at your next meeting, the first thing you should check in on are those items you committed to in the previous meeting.

Think about your own one-to-ones to determine which of these elements you are missing or the one(s) you can improve on, to turn "ordinary" into "awesome." Then put your improvements into action and watch your employees grow and flourish.

Related: 6 Best Practices for Managing Unhappy Employees

Beth Miller

Leadership Development Advisor, Speaker, Executive Coach

Beth Armknecht Miller is a certified managerial coach and founder of Executive Velocity Inc., a boutique firm offering talent management and leadership development solutions. She chairs a monthly Atlanta meeting for Vistage, a company that hosts advisory meetings for small business CEOs. Her latest book is Are You Talent Obsessed?

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