How Managers Can Make One-On-One Meetings More Valuable

Our goal has to be to make each meeting more meaningful
Our goal has to be to make each meeting more meaningful
Image Credit: Nuclear Regulatory Commission

As a manager, one of your most important manager skills is meeting with the members of your team. These meetings take place for a wide number of different reasons. We may be handing out new assignments, we may want an update on an ongoing project, or we may be having problems with a team member’s work performance. A one-on-one meeting between a manager and a team member can be one of the most valuable interactions an employee can have. However, if we’re not careful, these meetings can degrade into boring, check-the-box, non-productive encounters.

How To Make One-On-One Meetings Worthwhile

The one thing that managers really want to avoid is without any manager training we can end up having meetings with team members that end up as rote meetings to check people’s progress: What did you work on last week? What are you working on this week? That’s not an effective role for managers. What we need to realize is that if our main interaction with our team members is to check that they’ve hit benchmarks, we just become our team’s monitor and that’s not really our job. There is the possibility that you might get incremental improvements this way, but you’re just as likely to deflate people’s energy, zap their creativity, and drive them to end up leaving.

If this is what we want to avoid doing as managers, then what should we be doing instead? It turns out that managers should be using one-on-one meetings to create the conditions for engagement with their team members. How can this be done? By using questions to encourage your team member to do most of the talking while you listen to them.

Questions are a powerful tool, but only if you know how to use them correctly. The key to this process is using open-ended questions that can’t be answered by the person that you are talking with using a simple yes or no. Such questions will help you facilitate a dialogue that creates learning and leads to meaningful solutions.

Questions That Managers Can Use During Meetings

In order to get things off on the right foot, here is a list of questions that a manager can use when conducting a face-to-face meeting. What a manager need to realize is that you don’t have to use them all — any one of these questions can take up a whole meeting – we need to view that as being perfectly fine. Go with the flow and use them too get the conversation started.

Get An Initial Pulse Check With The Team Member:

1. How do you feel about your role?

2. What is your favorite thing about work right now?

3. How can I help you to do more of that?

4. What is your least favorite thing about work – and how is that affecting your performance?

5. What areas of your job make you feel like you’re stuck in a rut?

6. If you could work on anything during the next month, what would it be?

7. What would you like more feedback from me on?

Take Time To Learn More About A Project

8. What do you think I should know about this project but might not?

9. What aspect of this project has been particularly interesting for you?

10. What has caused you the most frustration with this project?

11. What steps can I take to support you to be successful on this project?

Address Current Challenges

12. What is the biggest challenge you’re facing right now with your job?

13. What have you tried so far to address this issue and has it worked?

14. What ideas can you bring in from past successes to help us out?

15. What haven’t you attempted things that you’d like to try?

16. Are there any obstacles to that approach for me to help you with?

Support A Team Member’s Career Development

17. What are some of the projects you’re most proud of so far?

18. What are two or three skills that would help you be more successful in your job?

19. What other roles/responsibilities would you like to explore at this company?

Find Ways To Improve Future Meetings

20. What do you like about these one-on-one meetings with me?

21. What would you like to see us make different about these discussions?

What All Of This Means For You

A cornerstone of being a good manager is having good communication skills. One of the ways that we can show that we have good communication skills is by having one-on-one meetings with the members of our team as a form of team building. These are the meetings where we can find out what is really going on while at the same time offering our guidance and any assistance that is required.

In order to get the most out of these types of meetings, we need to understand what needs to be covered. If we’re not careful the meetings will end up going nowhere and neither party will end up getting anything out of them. What we really want to be doing is using these meeting to create a sense of engagement with the members of our team. In order to do that, we need to get good at asking the right kinds of questions. The questions that we ask have to be open-ended questions that allow our team members to provide us with useful information.

Managers who can become good at face-to-face meetings can really connect with the members of their team. Knowing how to go about asking questions and knowing the right questions to be asking are the key to getting the most out of this type of meeting Take your time and prepare properly for your next face-to-face meeting and you just might be surprised how well it goes!

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: How often do you think that a manager should have a face-to-face meeting with a team member?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental IT Leader Blog is updated.
P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental IT Leader Newsletter are now available. Learn what you need to know to do the job. Subscribe now: Click Here!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

I’m pretty sure that most of us have spent some time learning how to interview candidates to join our team. However, there is one area that our manager skills may not have covered: how to follow up after an interview well. In fact, very few of us probably have any manager skills when it comes to following up with the people that we interview. It turns out that this is actually a very, very important team building skill.