Insights

Incredibly Simple Rules for One On Ones

This post is one in the “Incredibly Simple Management” series, dedicated to stripping great management down to the fundamentals you need to get it done.

As with any leadership activity, things are moving on two tracks: management – the art of controlling time and resources; and leadership – the art of connecting, motivating and serving people.

The Purpose of One on Ones – Management

  • To understand the work that is being done. You’re responsible, so you need to know.
  • To help the team do their jobs better, by providing your guidance, knowledge and expertise to remove roadblocks – technical, organizational or otherwise.
  • To help the team grow as professionals and people.

The Purpose of One on Ones – Leadership

  • To build relationships with the people who work for you: what motivates them, what do they want, what do they love? What do they know about you? How do you connect?
  • One on ones are the opportunity you have to build connection with your team. Use them.

One on Ones: Timing

  • Have regular one on ones. Just do it. If you are too busy, then it’s on you to get your time management sorted out. That may take a while (delegation, getting the hang of saying “no”), but it’s necessary.
  • Once a week is great. Once every two weeks is OK. Once a month is too few.
  • Schedule them ahead of time and don’t mess with the schedule. These are important events for your team  – they is where they can show their stuff, get your support and strengthen their connection with you.  Moving them around indicates that the relationship you have is not important.
  • Show up on time. See previous point.

One on Ones: Agenda

  • Have a regular agenda. Why? It’s efficient, and provides clarity for your team — they don’t have to wonder “what he/she wants to talk about this week” every time they are preparing.
  • Here’s a framework:
  • Get an update. What’s going on? Short description of status. This is checklist stuff: were things XYZ done by ABC? Is project Z going to be done by time D?
  • Successes and issues to be aware of: what went well? What’s not going great?
  • Wider discussion. What do they want your input, coaching, mentoring and judgement about?
  • Separate these out so you’re not bouncing from simple updates to longer discussions about strategy, problem solving, career growth and so on. It’s your job to be clear about what the discussion is about.
  • At the right time (once a quarter? once a month? up to you), spend more time on the wider discussion about their personal and professional development.

One on Ones: Your Approach

  • In the meeting, pay attention. Paying attention is a strong form of respect, and is deeply necessary to build human connection. Your people will know when you are paying attention, and know when you are not.
  • Your attitude is: listening. Listen so that the other person is heard. If you listen well, you’ll be able to support your team. If you listen with the intent to disagree, to correct or to be completely right, you won’t.

That’s it. Good luck!

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