I've talked with leaders throughout the world. It’s not just a FranklinCovey thing or a North America thing. Leaders are busy. We have so much to do, and it’s not easy to set aside the time to meet with our team members individually. And it’s easy to cancel that time, because they're great people and they'll understand.
I think leaders who are so focused on bottom-line results tend to push these meetings aside. Study after study has shown that the more engaged employees are, the better work they do and the better results they produce. This is obviously a no-brainer, but employees that produce better results contribute more to their company’s bottom line. It serves as a helpful reminder to people, me included, that effective 1-on-1s contribute to the bottom line.
If engaged employees produce better results, then we need to look for any and every way to engage our employees. As long as you've gotten the pay and the benefits right, decent 1-on-1s are the very best way to engage your employees. It is your time as a leader to connect with your employees and not to have them feel like they're a cog in the assembly line or a number on your organizational chart.
As I mentioned, leaders are busy, and they think, “I would love to have time to sit down with John regularly and understand how he's doing on his goals and his aspirations for his career. I just don't have that time.”
Well, they’re missing a tremendous opportunity to engage the hearts and minds of their team members and have them produce better than they’re doing right now.
The most effective 1-on-1s come after I remind myself of the importance of holding them in the first place. Embarrassingly, I will tell you I've been one of those leaders that have gone weeks, sometimes months, without having a formal 1-on-1. It’s not enough to say hi to people as you walk by their office; you can't check that off as a 1-on-1. Contrast that with the months where meaningful 1-on-1s take place. You can sense not just the energy and the comradery but the actual production.
When you’re holding 1-on-1s, make sure that it's the employee’s meeting. That's a mindset shift. It's not your meeting, it's their meeting, it's their agenda. But be prepared to contribute and have a part in that too. Everyone Deserves a Great Manager has some great tools to make sure that both leader and employee accomplish what both set out to do.
It's a chance to hear about how they're doing certainly at work, but also in their personal life, where appropriate. Don't pry into things, but certainly try to understand how things are going. It's the whole-person paradigm. You're not prying into someone's personal life where they don't want you to, but getting to know the employee as a whole person. What are their aspirations? What's working for them and what's going well right now in the role they’re in? What isn’t?
I have found that leaders have a hesitancy to ask these types of questions because they don't want to invite complaints. Well, this is your employee, your partner, your colleague. You’ve got to find out what's not working for them. You may be in the perfect situation to clear the path.
With your high performers, “superstars” so to speak, make sure you find out what they'd like to do next. Talented people like an ongoing challenge. They like to be challenged and be learning all the time. If you don't find out what they'd like to do next, somebody else is going to, and then you might risk losing that person.
At all costs, avoid the urge to just do a status check. “Hey, did you get this done and that done? Okay, do this next.” Yes, you've met with the person, but you have just unintentionally lowered the engagement level of that person.
There are organizations and teams and leaders that realize the value of effective 1-on-1s, and you're going to lose somebody if you are not intentional about the way you conduct your 1-on-1s.
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