Four things you can do to ensure your 1-on-1s are impactful

A recent survey of managers said that 94% of managers believe they are having 1-on-1s. While this may be true, our research with the High-Performance Index™ tells a much different story, with approximately one third of leaders holding effective 1-on-1 meetings. It may seem like common sense that great 1-on-1s are connected to high-performance leadership, yet these meetings are certainly not common practice. 

This is the second post in our series about the foundational elements of the SupportingLines High-Performance Framework™️ –  four things that explain 90% of leadership effectiveness:

While we do believe that many leaders hold 1-on-1 meetings, there are several things that make them ineffective. Here are four things leaders can do to ensure 1-on-1 meetings are impactful for their employees:

1. Use a structured approach.

Most leaders do not consider what a good 1-on-1 looks like from an employee’s perspective. Our experience indicates most leaders fly by the seat of their pants with no agenda and no structure. When somebody first suggested I use an agenda for 1-on-1 meetings, I thought they had lost their mind. I decided to try it and never looked back. 

Having a set agenda for your 1-on-1 meetings is critical to ensure that you cover the most important discussion points and stay on track. Say,isn’t that the same reason we have an agenda for all of our important meetings? Our structured approach has helped several leaders rapidly transform their high-performance assessment scores. 

2. View 1-on-1 meetings as a coaching conversation.

At one point in my career, I asked my managers if they had 1-on-1 meetings. While 100% of my leaders said they held 1-on-1 meetings, only 6% of employees said they were effective. Team members said that when their 1-on-1 meetings happened they were often mired in tactics or gave their manager an opportunity to complain about their own problems. 

We encourage leaders to use a coach approach in everything they do and the 1-on-1 meeting is the greatest opportunity to be a coach. The best 1-on-1 meetings should feel like a coaching conversation.Our structured approach to 1-on-1 meetings essentially provides leaders with a coaching conversation script they can use to rapidly improve the quality of their meetings and the impact of their conversations.

3. Avoid tactics.

While it is tempting to dive into issues of the day with the precious little 1-on-1 time we have with our team, it should not happen in every meeting. It is critical to set aside dedicated time to truly focus on the employee’s human experience of work and their personal development goals. It is impossible to have an authentic conversation about an employee’s development while also bringing up the tasks that are behind schedule or plans that are going off track. Tactics often put employees on the defensive, eroding the power of a development 1-on-1.

I am not saying you should avoid tactics. We love tactics and action items – we just keep them out of development 1-on-1 meetings. Tactics are best for team meetings or dedicated tactical 1-on-1s. To create genuine connection with your employees and truly show that you care, focus the discussion on recognition, development, feedback, support and engagement. 

4. Schedule 1-on-1 meetings regularly and avoid canceling.

Unfortunately, it is common for leaders to infrequently schedule meetings or cancel 1-on-1s at the last minute. We strongly believe that 1-on-1 meetings should be twice a month – and our data supports this. 

One of the major pitfalls many leaders fall into is the last minute cancellation when something else comes up. This is often done last minute with a message saying, “we don’t need to meet today, I’m good”. Your employees receive a different message loud and clear – you don’t see their development as a priority today. Cancelling a 1-on-1 should be avoided whenever possible. If you absolutely have to move a 1-on-1, do it in advance and hold it within the same week.

Make an impact.

Employees look forward to development 1-on-1 meetings with their leader. When done right, it is a very helpful, impactful meeting. Our structured approach to 1-on-1 meetings helps leaders in your organization make these common sense meetings, common practice. Great 1-on-1 meetings are one of the fastest and most impactful things you can do to scale your leadership and cultivate a high-performance culture.

Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith

Jeff is the Founder & CEO of SupportingLines. He is also a certified Master Corporate Executive Coach, seasoned C-suite business leader and yoga instructor.

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