Communication is the key to success in any organization. Clear and consistent communication at all levels of an organization is essential for building trust and avoiding misconceptions among teams. Even so, the idea of having a one-on-one meeting is often not a pleasant prospect for the employee or the manager! This is because of the myths and negative feelings associated with this type of meeting. For the employee, it rings a bell of anxiety on performance or tasks not done well, and for the manager, the burden is how to convey concerns or discuss a sensitive topic without sounding criticizing and creating negativity and demotivation.
Here are some of the necessary factors for managers to take into consideration when going into a one-on-one meeting:
Have a clear one-on-one meeting agenda
Prepare for the meeting carefully. One-on-ones can go out of control if the talking points are unplanned or vague. Schedule and communicate the time and place for the same, check-in for the availability of participants, and incorporate in the calendar schedule to prevent overlaps with other activities. The topics to discuss have to be stated clearly on the agenda. Any queries specific to address should also be noted. The meeting should start on a positive note, with a focus on employee strengths and open questions on work, to get the conversation going and make the team member participative in the process. For example, “What stage are you at on the testing documentation?” “How has the shift to the new team been for you” Move into action items of agenda after opening the conversation; do not be evasive about the negative feedback to give. Use assertive tone and language and be conscious of expression.
Keep it consistent
One-on-one meetings are not a one-time activity at the workplace. Managers have to conduct these meetings consistently for direct report employees and indirect ones to ensure the successful outcome for the team. It breaks the myths and anxiety around one-on-one meetings and enables employees to understand the importance of the same. Holding these recurring meetings creates trust in the process. Employees start looking forward to this dedicated time to interact with their superiors. By these one-on-one meetings, a manager can get direct and individual insight into situations, give performance reviews, or understand issues plaguing the employee bringing solutions that work for all.
Have an open conversation about career development
Face-to-face planned meetings or one-on-one meetings conducted online are the ideal time to have open conversations about employee career development, and long-term goals. A manager can use this time for guidance on current topics, coaching for growth in the role, or use this time to understand their vision about their future career. Ask specific questions targeting their expectations and aspirations like “What additional responsibilities would you like to take on” Find growth opportunities in the areas of interest and assign them a series of tasks that will give them a feel of the work and maximize their productivity. Find out if they feel the need for any skill development training. Motivate them with an appreciation for initiative and best practices to take it forward. The meeting should lead to actionable items and follow-up meeting points.
Listen, then speak
The most critical part of communicating is listening. It is important for a manager in a one-to-one meeting to be an active listener and show enthusiasm and interest in what the employee is saying. Be open-minded when entering a one-on-one meet; this will give you the correct understanding of the communicated sharing. Avoid distractions like phone messaging or eating during the conversation. Wait patiently for the employee to express their thoughts completely, without interruption. Do not focus on your responses or you could miss parts of the conversation! Your body language and expression should not be dismissive or show boredom. If you have to ask questions, wait for a break and ask open-ended questions which do not derail the conversation. Allow room for breaks and silences for both persons to process their thoughts.
Take thorough notes
While indulging in listening, reinforce memory by taking down notes, if required detailed ones to go back to, analyze and discuss further. Do not use the laptop to make notations, it creates distractions and takes away from your eye contact with the person.
End with positivity
A successful meeting always ends on a positive note! The team member must feel motivated and engaged at the end of the one-to-one meeting. Finish on a positive note by thanking them for their inputs and sharing. Give constructive feedback on how you think the meeting went. Communicate through email with positive feedback on the meeting held with a brief of points discussed, that can serve as a thread and a record for further interactions. Decide the topics and timelines for follow-up sessions.
Well planned and timely one-on-one meetings are management tools for managers to motivate, guide, track performances, and address team grievances. Today there are meeting set up and scheduling software tools that activate reminders of meetings, give templates for agendas and timelines. Use available technology to have recurring one-on-one meetings professionally. Keep your team collaborative and engaged with great job satisfaction through planned one-to-one meetings with you!