The one-on-one meeting is probably the single best tool in any managers utility belt. I would also wager that it is the most under-utilized as well. The benefits of this meeting outweigh almost every other meeting vying for attention. If you do not have regular one-on-ones scheduled with every one of your direct supports today, I would encourage you to stop reading this, head over to your calendar, and schedule them.
As I look back to when I first started managing, I was taking over a team that I was already a part of as technical lead. It would have been easy to overlook these meetings and assume the same trust and respect I had would remain. However, the first thing I did after taking the role was to schedule one-on-ones. I tend to believe that any trust or respect that remained can be chalked up to these regularly scheduled chats.
Behind the Trust
There are so many benefits when you stick with one-on-ones for all of your team members and the most important of all is the trust that you will build. Here are some of the things that I keep in mind to help me continue to build upon and gain respect through these meetings.
- Make it Personal - I work on a remote team and I would venture a guess that in today's digital world we all feel as though we are not as close to our teams as we could be. Use this time to get to know those you work with a little better. Start with small talk and let it grow from there. Ask how their weekend was or what plans they have for the weekend. Ask what they enjoy doing outside of work.
- Listen Actively - Try to step back and give room for your team to talk to you. Start with open ended questions and then stop talking. If your team feels safe and you have asked the right question they will open up.
- Show Appreciation - I struggle with this every day of every week. I always aim to use this time to show my appreciation. Sometimes this is something large and visible, sometimes this is just a thank you for sticking with that difficult story that has cost more time than anticipated. If you look hard enough there is always something to praise.
Successful one-on-ones are built upon the foundation the three guidelines above provide. The trust you are working toward is built one brick at a time.