Connecting with your team, in my opinion, should be your number one goal as a manager. There are many ways to connect and build relationships and the benefits are huge. You will build trust, respect, and a team that feels safe to share their ideas and thoughts in order to create quality outcomes. You will build a team that knows they have a manager or leader who is there for the best interest of those they manage, the team as a whole, and the company overall. And when a team feels like they are working with someone who has their best interests at heart...watch out. They end up loving where they work, love going to work, loving doing their job...can you imagine?
Connection, which includes communication, is the foundation of building a fully engaged, empowered, and productive team. And to be clear, there are no shortcuts. You either truly connect with your team to get amazing results, or don't, and guess what...you get nothing in return except those who can tick boxes and watch the clock.
I know I tease in several of my videos and blogs about whether or not you are keeping your 1:1's, but between Managing through Drive By's and 1:1's...if you can consistently employ these two tools with positive intention, you are well on your way to building that amazing team.
A lot of managers feel they don't have time for 1:1's, but mainly that's because they are running around trying to do and control everything instead of focusing on the team. If you focus on the team, they start to step up and outside of their boxes. Slowly the need to control everything that is day to day goes away because the team does it for you or you have built the trust to know you don't have to check up on them constantly.
Who's meeting it is anyhow?
I get a lot of push back on this, but my opinion is that the 1:1 is for the person you manage. While you may schedule the meeting and make sure it happens, the meeting is not for you. You are there to learn and understand the person you lead. A 1:1 is for the person you manage to catch you up on what they have accomplished since you last met, ask questions, or raise concerns and for them to seek guidance. Your job is to listen and to respond. If there is something you need to add to the meeting, it should go at the end or when it comes up in the conversation. If you need to have a serious conversation where you need to control the conversation, you should schedule a separate meeting.
How to get started?
If you have avoided having 1:1's, the first thing you should do is own that fact and apologize for not making your team (or a specific person) a priority. Then you either set or re-set expectations. Let them know the meeting is for them to share their accomplishments and to ask questions and for you to support them. You should also let them know that you expect them to come prepared. For me, I set a standard agenda that is in the meeting request. It looks something like this:
Update since the last meeting (accomplishments, what is going well, what isn't)
Questions, Problems, Concerns, Roadblocks to be cleared
Housekeeping (Administrative, Leave, HR concerns)
This is really dependent on the person and the size of the team you manage. As a rule of thumb, I would schedule a meeting twice a month. I do schedule weekly 1:1's with those who need extra attention or help. The least I would recommend is monthly. If you go monthly, please make sure you dedicate an hour to the meeting and be prepared to prompt them for information as a month is quite a bit of time between meetings and they may forget things.
What should be discussed?
While you will follow an agenda, it's really up to the other person what will be discussed. It's up to them to be prepared with their accomplishments and where they need help. It's your job to listen and clarify where you can assist. When first starting out, you may need to probe and ask questions to get them comfortable speaking about themselves. They may also not trust that you are really interested in what they have to say, so keep positive and ask questions. At the end of the meeting, it's important that you do a quick wrap up of what was discussed and confirm any action points either of you have. This shows the other person you heard what they had to say.
How to build trust?
Do not let other things get in the way. Decline meetings that are scheduled during your 1:1 time slots. This is a commitment and trust concern here. You HAVE to make your team a priority in order to get the benefits. If there is no way that you can miss a conflicting meeting, then you re-schedule the 1:1 immediately. It may mean that you move other meetings in order for it to happen, again they need to be given priority.
Arrive on time and with a positive attitude.
Focus on the other person while in the meeting. Don't look at your phone or watch and don't take over the meeting with your own babble.
If you are hearing things you are not too happy about, maintain control of your emotions while in the meeting. This is an opportunity for you to understand what makes this person tick, if you shut them down or get angry without taking the time to consider the consequences, things could go sideways quick. It's best to simply state that you need time to think things through and come back to them.
Take notes and follow up on your commitments
Offer praise for their accomplishments either personally or publicly
Make sure you download a copy of Productive One on Ones. This will give you a plan and suggestions on how to keep the meeting moving and so it's productive.
I realize you may be apprehensive about having regular 1:1's, but the best way to show your team that you value them and to reap all of the benefits that bring is to invest time into them. Once you have had a few of these, everyone knows what to expect, they come prepared and the meetings are quick, enlightening, and full of useful information for you as their manager.
Lead with Greatness!