Based on an article by Debbie Elison & reprinted from www.TableGroup.ca
Have you ever questioned the value of your one-on-one meetings?
Most of us dutifully hold them but rarely ask why.
When asked, many clients say something like, “It’s my direct report’s time with me. I let them talk about whatever they want to get their job done.”
While it always sounds like a great idea, there is a downside put in perspective.
Leaders spend as much as 30 hours per month in one-on-ones, building relationships, helping people grow, and improving morale. However, many one-on-one conversations undermine the team, fuel dysfunction, and lower morale and productivity.
The first time I realized just how damaging one-on-ones was at an offsite with a team reviewing an assessment of their team’s effectiveness, which indicated that the team was struggling with commitment to decisions.
As we unpacked the reasons for the issues, a phenomenon unfolded that no one had realized.
The leader had allowed scope creep into the one-on-ones. Instead of talking about the development of the employee, which is the most productive use of a one-on-one, team members had broadened them to include other things that were important to get their jobs done, such as:
- Their opinions on important decisions.
- Issues they were having with other team members.
- Requests for direction and decisions on operational matters.
This scope creep resulted in individuals holding back in the team meetings and, instead, waiting for one-on-ones.
Decisions were being made in one-on-ones that should have been debated with the larger team. Not surprisingly, the team hadn’t genuinely bought into the decisions made.
I have encountered this same phenomenon many times.
Well-intended leaders try to do the right thing and end up causing more harm than good.
Recently, I saw a leader believing he was doing the right thing by giving everyone attention and direction, only to realize that he was leaving most of the team out of critical conversations.
So, what can you do to improve your one-on-ones?
- Identify one or two opportunities for the employee’s growth during a specific period
- Ask for examples of the employee exemplifying those behaviours since the last one-on-one
- Discuss progress on operational deliverables
- Coach them on how to talk with a person with whom they are having an issue
- Ask what you or the organization can do better
- Mix it up from time to time and ask more significant questions of each other about how you collectively can bring more value to the organization
- Change or cancel the meeting without providing a clear reason
- Change a direction or decision affecting the rest of the team
- Agree to talk to another team member about an issue your direct is having with them (encouraging hub-and-spoke accountability)
- Be defensive about constructive feedback they give you
Review this checklist with your team so they can hold you accountable for these practices, but do not use this as a license to cancel your one-on-ones.
Refocused them and has received accolades from his team.
Do them right and watch your people flourish.