One-on-ones with staff can often feel like a waste of time for both the manager and the staff member, however, they shouldn't. Instead, they are a chance to get to know each other better. It's an opportunity for the manager to find out if the staff member has any concerns, to answer their questions, and to listen to their ideas or suggestions. In short, one-on-ones are a great opportunity to nurture and develop a productive and happy staff member, which will ultimately benefit you and your business.
Here are a few ideas for making your one-on-ones more successful:
Let your staff set the agenda
A one-on-one with a staff member is about them, not you, so where possible, let them decide what they want to talk about with you, or at the very least invite them to contribute to the agenda. Before the one-on-one, ask them to actively come up with some topics to discuss. Make it clear they can be as broad as they wish, and that you are open to discussing whatever they want.
TIP: You may also want to consider letting them choose the time, date and place for your meeting so that they feel as comfortable as possible talking to you.
Remember everyone is different
Understanding your staff, the way they work, and the way they need or want feedback is crucial in order to get the best out of your relationship with them. It can also be highly effective in motivating them to work at their best. Some people will look to you for regular guidance, whilst others will want to be left to get on with their own work. Some will need more praise and encouragement than others who are naturally more confident. Be prepared to change the way you communicate during one-on-ones to accommodate this.
Facilitate, don't dictate
It sounds counter-intuitive telling you not to manage as a manager, but as you may already know, research shows that micro-managing staff is an error many managers make. In fact, people have proven time and again that facilitating and supporting staff to manage their own time and work will lead to a more productive and happier workforce. So don't see a one-on-one as an opportunity to dictate new orders or explain in minute detail everything that needs to be done. Instead, ask your staff where they need more help, or how you can help them get their work done.
TIP: Encourage staff to ask questions at several points throughout the one-on-one rather than leaving it until the end when a staff member may feel reluctant to ask questions if you both have to get back to work or go home for the day.
Prepare to take action... and follow up
Your staff may come to you with a specific question that will require you to take action. For example, they want to know about some additional training or they are interested in a new role or promotion. Being as aware as possible of what you can offer will help you answer their questions confidently, however, you should also be open to new ideas for how you might be able help them grow and develop. If you do need to do a little more research or give one of their questions more consideration be sure to get another date in the diary before the one-on-one ends so your staff member knows their enquiry has been taken seriously.
TIP: Remind your staff to bring their diary or have their calendar to hand so you can both schedule a follow-up meeting. This small action shows you are keen to keep their employment and care about solving a problem or concern they may have.
Be approachable, all the time
It is important to have regular one-on-ones, but being approachable and open to talking to your staff at all times is the ideal scenario. In being so, it will almost certainly make the obligatory one-on-ones you are required to have with staff more relaxed and more beneficial for all.