That’s a question we’re asked all the time. Remember 1:1’s are frequent, informal conversations to maintain alignment and catch issues before they snowball. They need some planning and structure to be meaningful.
1:1’s are a great way to improve issues like:
Lack of feedback
Career growth and development stalling
Unclear sense of purpose
Lack of trust and confidence
Bottled up frustrations
Interpersonal and inter-team conflicts
So what’s so great about a 1:1? An informal “chat” over a beer is useful for ad-hoc situations but if you want to keep your finger on the pulse, regular, structured 1:1’s work really well. Yes, structured – if there’s no tangible outcome of an hour long 1:1 you will waste time and cause frustration. So if you’re new to team leadership or want to refresh your thinking, here are our top tips:
1. Have a clear agenda
You and your team are time poor, so don’t waste time, have a consistent agenda and structure to your meeting. People will soon come prepared so you get to a meaningful conversation sooner. A guide would be spend one third of the session on a) what they are working on, what’s good and what impedes them, b) agree what you can do to improve performance and c) any news or updates from you. Of course whilst it’s great to have an agenda, be flexible if there’s something more urgent or pressing on your team mate’s mind.
2. Maintain good body language
Don’t underestimate the impact of your body language – research tells us it accounts for up to 55% of how other people interpret our emotions and intentions. It’s essential to use your body language to communicate positive, constructive, and collaborative intent. Sit up tall, maintain good eye contact, express neutral and positive emotions with your arms, hands, and face. Try to avoid expressing negative emotions and smile when you are expressing positive or constructive communication. Don’t be afraid to use humour and laugh to build a good rapport with others. If this isn’t natural at first, practise with friends & family so it becomes natural and authentic.
3. Prepare and make sure both parties benefit
The way you as a team leader prepare for the session sets the tone. If you don’t make the effort, prepare and follow up on previous actions you lose credibility very quickly. Do your homework and find at least one thing to praise and one to explore or suggest for improvement. So you might start with something like “What do I need to change as your team leader and what do you need to do differently as well? … how about …? It will raise morale and show you have your finger on the pulse, so both parties benefit. (ps remember to ask Open questions). Be attentive and turn off your phone, so the pings and rings don’t distract you.
4. Agree a plan with SMART goals
This is about agreeing what can be done to improve performance.
Who or what do they need to support them? What is a good mid-point goal?
An example might be effective communication: they are currently a level 3 (practitioner) and you agree they should be a level 4 (competent). What does this mean? How would that improve their performance / improve their team relationships / make their work more enjoyable? And although you should focus on high priority issues, don’t neglect the personal. One-on-ones can be a good opportunity to help your team members be more thoughtful about their skill paths and ultimately their careers, so make sure you schedule the next one before you close.
5. Stay aligned to your Team goals
As a Team Leader your goal is both to help your colleagues develop and grow, and also to step back, remember the organisational requirement, and think about how best you can work this person to get the right things done right. Close the meeting by thanking the person for their contribution to (name the team goal) and the effort they make in their personal development.
While 1:1’s won’t solve all your team problems, they will keep you aware and involved.
What are your top tips for great 1:1’s? We’d love to hear from you.