Mastering the Art of One-on-Ones: A Guide for Today's Leaders: Part Two
Dive into best practices for preparing and fostering an environment that encourages open dialogue, trust, and genuine connections between leaders and employees.
The Foundation of Effective One-on-Ones: Preparation
Now that we’ve covered why one-on-ones are important, let’s discuss how to properly prepare. Have you ever attended a meeting and there was no clear agenda? Have you ever attended a training session and there was no course outline? I’ve seen both situations and let me tell you, it was not a fun experience. Conducting a one-on-one without any preparation is an absolute no-go. Let me show you the way to properly prepare.
Establish a Meeting Cadence: Establishing a cadence for one-on-one meetings with team members is critical to the success for both parties as it shows that you are invested in their career journey. First thing is to collaboratively set a recurring meeting day and time that works for both you and the employee's availability, taking into account time zones if necessary. Utilize digital calendars and scheduling tools can help automate and remind everyone of these meetings. You should also make a commitment to honor these meetings as a priority, rescheduling only when absolutely necessary to maintain consistency and reliability. This approach ensures that employees can anticipate and prepare for these conversations, creating an environment conducive to productive discussions and fostering stronger working relationships.
Setting a Clear Agenda: This is the most crucial step! Get this wrong and all of your efforts will be for nothing. This isn't just a task, but a necessity. Encourage employees to prepare as well. Have them outline their main talking points, ideas, and concerns. Maybe they have a concern they'd like to discuss and get your feedback on or a brilliant idea they're excited to share. By co-creating the agenda, you ensure that the meeting is relevant and valuable for both parties. I like to provide a template that is used for each meeting, broken down into two 30-minute sections.
Researching Employee's Current Projects and Challenges: Take a moment to step into their shoes and identify the main projects and tasks being accomplished. What projects are they juggling? Are there any roadblocks they're facing? Where do they need support and guidance? What are their major concerns? Where are they in their development? By knowing the workload your employees are managing, you show that you care and are genuinely invested in their success.
Prepare Questions: Create a list of open-ended questions to guide the discussion. These questions should encourage employees to share their thoughts and concerns. Examples include
What are your current challenges or roadblocks?
How can I support your professional growth?
Are there any obstacles preventing you from meeting your goals?
What areas do you see for innovation and improvement?
Laying a strong foundation for one-on-one meetings is crucial because it creates effective and cohesive communication, trust-building, and employee engagement. These meetings serve as a primary channel for dialogue between leaders and employees, fostering open and honest exchanges of information and ideas. By consistently conducting well-structured and respectful one-on-ones, trust is built, conflicts are resolved promptly, and alignment between individual and organizational goals is achieved.
The Foundation of Effective One-on-Ones: Creating a Conducive Environment
We’ve looked at the why and how to prepare, let’s now focus on creating a conducive environment that facilitates a great interaction. It's all about creating an environment that invites open dialogue and genuine connections. Here's how you can do it:
Create a Comfortable Environment: Creating a comfortable environment in one-on-one meetings involves selecting a private and distraction-free location. This is important because some locations can be seen as threatening, such as the boss’s office. When employees know that their conversations won't be overheard by others, they are more likely to speak candidly. Make sure to eliminate potential disturbances, such as phone calls, emails, or other work-related tasks, during the meeting time. This allows you to give your full attention.
Adopting a Non-Judgmental Approach: We all have our moments, because we are human and no leader is without mistakes. Recognize that things don't go as planned and that you may face challenges that seem difficult to overcome. During one-on-ones, it's essential to approach topics with an open mind, a non-judgmental attitude, and free from biases. Your job is to understand, not judge.
Display Attending Behaviors: These are those verbal and non-verbal behaviors displayed by you that communicate that you are paying attention to and is interested in the employees’ message. Use a welcoming body language, actively listen with empathy by maintaining eye contact, nodding, and providing verbal cues, and be present in the moment.
Offering Undivided Attention: Put away your phone, close your email, close those extra tabs, and focus on your employee. Giving your full attention shows that you’re interested in what they have to say, it shows respect and makes the other person feel valued. Plus, you might pick up on subtle cues or insights that you'd miss otherwise.
Practicing Empathetic Listening: The essence of Habit 5 from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It's not just about hearing the words but feeling the emotions, motivations, and experiences behind them. This is all about understanding and empathizing with their thoughts, feelings, and perspective. Reflective summarization is a key in empathic listening as this shows that you are actively processing their message, rephrasing what you’ve heard back in your own words and clarifying your understanding.
Creating a conducive environment is like setting the perfect ambiance for a cozy dinner. It's warm, inviting, and makes everyone feel at home. With these elements in place, one-on-ones can transform into a nurturing ground for growth and collaboration.
In Part Three of Mastering the Art of One-on-Ones: A Guide for Today's Leaders, we will explore how to give constructive feedback and recognition, as well as how to set goals for development.