The pressure. The expectations. The stress. The sometimes pointlessness. Many of us are familiar with all that goes into every meeting, big or small.

Throughout the week, it’s important to meet with your employees, to score some “face time”, in order to maintain effective communication. At ConnectedHR, we’re big on communication, and, among the many ways you’ll communicate with employees, one-on-one meetings can be the most difficult.

We’d like to go over the “Point” and “Procedure”. That is, why you have these meetings and how to have them.

The Point of One-on-One Meetings

Every team needs a leader, this is what a leader does. Interface with your employees in order to stay ahead of potential problems and understand how I work. Part of the Procedure will be setting clear goals for the meeting- those goals become your Point.

  • You’re better together
    • Even if you have the best employee in the world- totally autonomous, over-delivers, never lets you down- you can still improve their productivity or even your own. An employee who exceeds in the position will be aware of the problems and imperfections present in their day-to-day work. Maybe they can improve your own performance with suggestions drawn from experience. Maybe they’ve discovered a better way to do their job that you want other employees to emulate. This is your chance to improve as well.
  • Early warning
    • If you’ve read our blog, the phrase “solve problems before they happen” isn’t new to you. It’s important, and the worst catastrophes a company faces are the ones they don’t see coming. Speaking to your employees, pooling their ground-level observation with your broader picture, can absolutely signal problems or patterns you want to curtail.
    • What if you have three one-on-ones one week and, in each meeting, a female employee mentions another worker making an inappropriate comment. Now, they might not be too bothered, or even sure if it’s a big deal, they’re just mentioning it in passing and don’t see anything too pressing. But you do. You see a pattern. And with sexual harassment cases on the rise, this pattern is a problem. The more you know….
  • Planning for the future
    • You need to know what your employees are doing. Some managers take this a little too far, having employees fill out checklists for logging into their computer and going to the restroom, but, at the very least, your employees report to you should give you some idea of what they’re capable of in any given week.
    • You need to know how their most recent projects ended, how their current projects are progressing, and what they’ll be doing next. You should also get an idea of how an employee uses and plans out their tasks so that you can either improve their process or shape your own processes around theirs.
  • Listening
    • Part of your procedure is to communicate what the purpose of the meeting is and what your subordinate should have prepared. This includes problems and concerns that they have. Let them know that this is the time to bring concerns to you so that they’ll feel safe doing so.
    • Sometimes, people need to let off steam. If a sale is ruined by an error in accounting, the salesperson who lost that client is going to have something to say, and it might not all be constructive.
    • Sometimes, life happens. If an employee feels comfortable with you, they may share difficult things happening in their personal life. This is absolutely not information you should act on, but being listened to makes people feel cared for. Commiseration boosts morale.

If you aren’t having routine one-on-one meetings, you’re missing out on import intel only your employees have. Creating a productive, healthy environment is certainly our goal; it should be yours as well.

The Procedure of One-on-One Meetings

Everyone has a meeting that was either pointless, uncomfortable, unproductive or all of the above. If you’re a fan of not wasting your own time, there are several steps you can take towards having productive meetings.

  • Have a Point
    • There should be two reasons for each meeting. Otherwise, just send an email. If you read above, you have a decent idea what the purpose of these meetings should be. And if the reason you give your subordinate for the meeting is different from your own, so be it.
    • Without an objective, people will dread your meetings. They have work to do. You’re getting in their way. If they don’t do that work, you will be upset with them. It’s a catch-22 expect with an annoying boss.
  • A level playing field
    • Go out to you closest Pier 1 or similar mid-tier furniture supplier, or even an office furniture catalog. Purchase a dark, super high-backed chair. Make sure it spins. Adopt a cat. Keep it with you during all work hours. Remove all lighting fixture from your office except for a searing interrogation lamp pointed directly at the guest chair across from yours. Only schedule meetings during thunderstorms and try to sync-up your statements to end 5-10 seconds after each lightning strike. Swivel to face your employee, stroking your cat and look into their eyes to experience real fear. You’re officially in the driver’s seat.
    • Or don’t. A big part of effective meetings is making the other person feel comfortable, not intimidated. They already know they work for you. You don’t need to express that fact in every interaction. Try to sit at a common table rather than across a desk. Make small talk. Laugh at their jokes. People are more open and creative when they’re not afraid of their boss.
  • Keep it routine
    • We recommend having one-on-one’s once a week with each direct subordinate, provided you don’t have dozens and dozens of direct subordinates. When the weekly check-in is routine, your employees will start to file things in the “talk to my boss about this” folder, and these meetings will become way more productive.
    • Giving them time to prepare also ensures that information is relevant, and, after the first meeting, they should have a pretty good idea of exactly what they should prepare.
  • Time is money
    • Don’t be afraid of short meetings. If there isn’t much to report, or any pressing issues, or anything new, or any small talk to make, great. Things are progressing as the should. All’s right with the world. Go back to work.
    • Don’t be afraid of long meetings. People won’t feel heard, and issues won’t be addressed if the employee knows they only have 5 minutes of your time. It should be an hour of possible interaction. If something comes up, and you won’t be able to do an hour, ask your employee ahead of time how much time they’ll need this week, and/or reschedule for the very next day. Imagine reading all of this and still trying to do 5-minute meetings.

We’ve all been in pointless meetings. Now, we’re the ones running these meetings, and we don’t want to fall into the same traps that others have. Have a plan, and execute that plan.

Communication in the workplace is hugely important. The culture and productivity of your company rely on it. If you have any questions, give us a shout. We’d love to hear from you.