How to Ensure Effective 1-on-1 Meetings Every Time
Why are effective 1-on-1 meetings absolutely critical to your organization’s success?
Because if you practice and master these simple four clear steps, you’ll create a pathway of clear two-way communication, valuable feedback, and trust your direct reports and teams need to achieve results:
1. Frequency is Essential
Essential because . . . Team members need timely information and need help and feedback from their supervisor. They have individual needs, in addition to team needs.
Key: A bi-weekly 1-on-1 time is a proven way to build trust and understanding. This can’t be accomplished once or twice a year. If your proof of effectiveness as a leader is your ability to achieve results through the well-supported efforts of others, then logically you’ll prioritize this time.
2. Structure Ensures Focus
Essential because . . . Meetings help you find out what’s going well, tripping up, or coming up for each person. As a routine, they keep things moving. Agendas keep meetings on track. Structure assures you cover the key issues.
Key: A simple structure keeps a short, 30-minute meeting on track and is a built-in agenda. A model used by experts suggests the following classic 4-point structure:
- Roses–What fantastic things are blooming for this team member?
- Thorns–What is hampering impact and success?
- Buds–What new things are coming up that might become roses or thorns?
- Gift Bouquets–Ask for and give feedback about improvements- you or your team member.
3. Active Listening Shows You Care
Essential because . . . This is often the only time your team member has your complete attention. Questions get at root issues, notes show you are listening, and waiting shows their thoughts are important. Follow through and keeping your promises is essential for building trust, mutual accountability, and ultimate success.
Key: The 5 Golden Rules of Listening
- Be Attentive–This starts with committing to the meeting, prioritizing the meeting, ignoring interruptions, and putting away distractions. Warmly acknowledge the time spent together.
- Give Time for the Others to Finish Thoughts–Active listeners don’t jump right in when others are almost finished with their own ideas. They leave a polite space in case the other person is not finished.
- Ask Probing Questions—such as, “Tell me more?” . . . “What did you conclude?”. . . “What might you still need?”. . . “How would you fix that?”. . . “Give me a few examples.”
- Paraphrase What You’ve Heard–Repeat back in your own words what you believe your team member was expressing. This shows attentiveness and clears up any misunderstanding.
- Take Notes–People feel honored and respected when someone else finds something they’ve said noteworthy. Follow up at the next meeting based on what you wrote.
4. Giving/Receiving Feedback
Essential because . . . Studies show that planning for and asking for feedback is a very effective way for people to be able to accept another person’s take on what they might be doing or saying. Feedback expert Sheila Heen, author of the best-selling book, Thanks for the Feedback, reveals that asking for feedback gives the receiver a sense of control over the timing of the feedback and improves receptivity.
By incorporating time for feedback in each one-on-one, issues are caught early, misunderstandings can be cleared up before they turn into conflict, accountability is improved, and affirmation and recognition are regularly given.
Key: Consider these best practices:
- Schedule–Include time for feedback in each one-on-one (Gift Bouquet)
- Be Specific–Avoid general words like “great.” Instead state, “I notice the way you present is particularly effective when you use examples.”
- If “corrective,” focus on one or two things. Don’t overwhelm and discourage.
- “ABCD”–When improvement is needed, state what you observe using the “ABCD” model:
- Attention–Bring the item to the team member’s attention soon after it happens.
- Behavior– Describe the behavior or actions you observed that is the issue or concern. Don’t label, describe specifically. “Last week you sent the schedule just the day before the event.”
- Change–Describe the change in behavior or actions that are necessary. Give the employee a specific example of what doing it right looks like. ” People generally need a week to plan for that kind of event.”
- Desired Results–Explain what positive outcome that will result from the change. For example: “When you send the schedule out a week in advance, everyone has time to give feedback and we find out if there are going to be problems, versus fighting fires because people didn’t have time to adjust. That will help your event go more smoothly in the future.”
Phil Jackson, the Hall of Fame Coach of the NBA champion Chicago Bulls knew how to grab hold of the fruitfulness of great 1-on-1 meetings: “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”
May you and your organization meet up with this enduring truth each and every day.
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