The concept of conducting one-on-one meetings isn’t new. For some of you, it has been a regular practice for years. In 2016, Harvard Business Review published an article by Rebecca Knight, entitled “How to Make Your One-on-Ones with Employees More Productive.” Knight references books and studies that have pointed to the importance of regular check-ins between leaders and employees for years. You can dig further back in history and find plenty written in the leadership literature about the topic.
Two concerns make one-on-ones more important than ever: isolation and disengagement.
Isolation Many employees feel isolated. Studies have found that isolation is linked to depression, lower quality of life, and health problems.
Disengagement Some of your people may not feel connected to their lead and their team. As a result, they may pull away and look at their job as a series of tasks to be done as opposed to a collective effort toward an important purpose.
To reduce the impact of isolation and disengagement, you should do regular check-ins with your team members. Here’s what to do before, during, and after a check-in:
1 – Before the Check-in
Effective check-ins start long before the conversation begins. Lock the discussion in on the calendar, remind your team member, and prepare yourself to conduct an effective conversation. Draft an agenda for the session and share it. Allow your team member to shape the agenda as the conversation should focus on them, not you. To that point, check your intent before you start the conversation. If you are holding the meeting so that you can get done what you want, talk about what you want, and address only the issue you are concerned about, you are missing the point. The check-in should be about connecting with your team member, discussing their progress, understanding their challenges, and helping them to win.
2 – During the Check-in
A fruitful discussion begins by eliminating distractions. Be in a quiet spot, put away your cell phone, turn off notifications, and be present for your team member. As the conversation unfolds, make sure to celebrate successes, discuss struggles, problem-solve together, and explore your team member’s goals and aspirations. End with identifying commitments to move forward. Do this not by telling your team member what to do, but by having a conversation and allowing the team member to identify and commit to the next steps.
3 – After the Check-in
On the heels of a check-in, send your team member a note confirming the next steps, thanking them for their time, and ensuring that the next check-in is on the calendar. Then, complete whatever tasks you committed to in the session.
Your people need to know that they can count on you to be a consistent voice, an empathetic listener, a results-oriented role model, and a leader that they will happily choose to follow. One-on-one check-ins can allow you to deliver on this requirement.
We’ve created a “Check-in Checklist” that you can put to use to make your one-on-ones better.
Patrick Leddin, PhD is a speaker, global leadership consultant, and The Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Five-Week Leadership Challenge. Patrick is an Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University with a thriving leadership blog and podcast, and 25-years of leadership experience. He offers an unparalleled mix of academic rigor and real-world experience.