One-on-Ones Practice to Develop Managers to be Better Leaders

March 5, 20191:06 pm1993 views

Brianna Hansen, a content marketing manager at Wrike, described one-on-ones practice as a trust building relationship amongst team at an individual level practiced by devoting time to listen to individual concerns and helping them grow to reach their personal objectives. Thus, instead of treated it as an open-ended office hours for teams to come in and update ongoing projects, one-on-ones should be scheduled with more purposes. For example, utilising the time to discuss personal growth and give team member a full attention.

Moreover, Julia B. Austin, a senior lecturer in Entrepreneurial Management Unit at Harvard Business School, agreed that one-on-ones practices should be a priority. There are five reasons mentioned by Austin why 1:1 is so important.

  • Making time for an individual says you care about them.
  • It is the only forum where you can have an honest and private conversation with each other about what’s really going on – personally and professionally.
  • As a manager, it could become your opportunity to assess parts of your employees that lead them to productive whole (your team).
  • Time spent, especially with those who are also leaders, will likely to lessen your poor team performance because of ambiguity and mistrust. It can also clarify goals of organisations, performance expectations, and build trusting relationship with employees.
  • Lastly, constructive one-on-ones practice throughout the year makes performance reviews a breeze.

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As important as it is, Claire Lew, CEO of Know Your Company, conducted a survey to hundreds of managers and employees, and found that 88 percent respondents said their one-on-one meetings positively affect their team’s performance to a moderate or somewhat high degree. However, “almost every person did not know the answer to a question “Is your 1:1 meetings working well? They held one-on-ones but felt in the dark if their one-on-ones could be run better (or, if they were working at all),” added Lew. Additionally, Angela Robertson, a principal manager at Microsoft, shared her tactical checkpoints and advices to foster a more open one-on-one meetings. In her view, effective and engaging 1:1 can be conducted if manager:

  1. establishes a weekly cadence,
  2. schedules 30 minutes for meeting (allowing more time as needed),
  3. lets team members drive meeting agenda and direction,
  4. provides template or some guidance if the meetings are not productive, and
  5. starts with a questions, listen and provide clarity whenever possible.

Further, transparency is also a key characteristic of an open organisation, and acting transparently can make the meetings between managers and teams better. To ensure this transparency, you should ask lots of questions for clarity. Robertson usually asks following questions:

  • What are they working on beyond the work assigned?
  • What problems are they solving?
  • How are they deciding what work not to do?
  • What do they need to have unblocked in order to make faster progress?

In the end, it is about listening more than talking. You should provide a meaningful feedback as well to help your team do their jobs better. Here, we share template example you can use to guide your conversation with your team members. Robertson said, “Template is a guide for what I want to cover in the meetings, and it is stored in a shared document. Each meeting is a unique entry in that document, so we can go back and have a history of the one-on-ones meetings.” Here is the template Robertson suggest:

Reminder: I do not want you to spend a lot of time working on your 1:1 prep. This information ensures we spend our time wisely and do not miss anything.
Link to work tracking system:
Priorities for the week (no more than 3):
Things I’m not doing to focus on the priorities:
Things I am delegating (for managers and leads only):
Things I learned / surprises:
Roadblocks / bottlenecks:
Risks (and risk mitigation plans):
What do I wish I had more time to learn more about?
Action items from this meeting (with owner):

Read also: Leadership Competency: Great vs. Average Leader

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