Invest in One-on-One Time

What does it mean?

Great leaders know that spending one-on-one time with everyone on their team is a worthwhile investment. It’s a part of how you build solid relationships while also dealing with issues before they become bigger problems. Depending on the size of your team and the type of work employees do, it is recommended to meet one-on-one with your people no more than once a week and no less than once per month. These meetings are a great opportunity to talk about what’s on the go, what is needed from each other and ensure you are both on the same page.

How to do it:

  1. Schedule it: Don’t just try and find time each week, build it into your schedule as a weekly or monthly recurring meeting. You may need to move it every once and a while due to a crazy week or vacation but do your best to stick to it otherwise.
  2. Find a Rhythm: Find a routine in terms of what you cover during that one-on-one time. Chat about day to day items, updates on a big project and be sure to ask at least once each meeting if there is anything the employee needs from you.
  3. Say Thank You: This is a great opportunity to build in recognition. What has the employee done over the last week and how can you express recognition for that work, that change in behaviour or that special thing they did?
  4. Tell Them What You Notice: This is an opportunity to talk about small things you’ve noticed before they become a big deal and require a tougher conversation. If something is off, tell them what you’ve noticed and where appropriate, what the expectation is going forward.
  5. Be Honest: Be as transparent as you can be about what’s going on with you and the business/department. If you’ve messed up, be honest about that too and apologize.
  6. Follow Through: Chances are, after these one-on-one meetings, you may have a few extra things to complete on your to do list. Maybe your direct report needs info from you to move a project forward or needs you to complete one item so they can continue on with a task. Be sure to take note of the ‘to-do’s’ that come up in the meeting and then follow through on them. Lead by example so that your direct report follows through for you as well.

You can also use these meetings to continue to get to know your people better. What are their strengths? What do they want to be doing more of and enjoy? What do they need from you in terms of leadership and feedback? What are their personal (if they are willing to share) and professional goals?

Why it Matters

Great leaders know that strong teams are built by leading individuals. Be sure to check in with each member of your team regularly. Even if an employee doesn’t seem to have much to share in one-on-ones initially, give them time to adjust and figure out how these meetings will work best for them. It may take a few tries before they are comfortable being more open about the challenges they are having, sharing successes or letting you know what they need from you as a leader.

This takes time, intentionality, and effort — but the impact it will have is significant. The biggest predictor of a productive and effective team is the leader’s individual relationship with each person on that team.


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