How Regular 1-on-1's Can Change a Boss to a Coach 1


Employees Want To Meet One-on-One With Managers

Sam’s first official one-on-one meeting with his boss was his exit interview. “We did often meet to talk about issues. But over the last 7 years, we never had an official quarterly or annual review ‘on the calendar.’ So the project or the problem was always the priority, not necessarily my unique perspective or my professional growth. But now I found a better fit, so I left.” Sam’s experience lines up with what Gallup found in their State of the Manager report. “Employees whose managers hold regular meetings with them are almost three times as likely to be engaged as employees whose managers do not hold regular meetings with them.”


Why Managers Avoid One-on-Ones’s

Meeting with each of your direct reports is nothing new. So why don’t managers make it happen? Here are the most common reasons we hear from managers.

  • Time – “I have 15 direct reports. There is no way I can have 1/2 hour meetings with each of them every quarter.” In Google’s early years, Larry Page set aside two whole days per quarter to meet with each of his software engineers.
  • ROI – “I just don’t see the return on the investment of my time. I am their boss; they don’t need to feel more connected to me.” According to our research, employees that know “the organization cares about me” are the most engaged in their work, and engagement directly correlates to overall performance.
  • Constant Contact – “I talked to each of them at least 5 times a day. They definitely don’t need to see more of me!” Yes, but similar to Sam’s experience, these conversations are tactical and about the company. One-on-ones are about the employee, their unique contributions, and their growth.
  • Relationships are Hard – “I’m an engineer. I am not a people-person.” You don’t have to be friends with your direct reports. In fact, most people really don’t want that. But employees do want bosses that relate to them like a good coach; someone who sees their potential and their unique contribution. Too often managers think they are managing processes instead of people. And according to HBR, the skills that make a great manager are much more “people-focused” than “process-focused.”


6 Ways to Make Your One-on-One’s More Effective

  1. Get them on the calendar – when a manager struggles to get her one-on-one’s completed quarter after quarter, we simply suggest they ask someone else to schedule the meetings for them. Your HR rep would likely be glad to help you do this. This single act 1) blocks out your calendar, 2) gets you thinking about how you want to use that time, and 3) forces you to communicate the purpose of the meeting to your employees.
  2. Don’t skip them – once they are scheduled, do not miss them.
  3. Let the consistency compound – don’t expect to hit your first round of one-on-ones “out of the park.” Hit a “base hit” on each meeting, and then do it again next quarter. Over the next year, you will see slow but obvious growth in your team’s engagement and performance.
  4. Come prepared – to keep the conversation focused on their growth, both you and your direct report should review their work over the last quarter
  5. Ask good questions – We agree with David Hassell, “Although there isn’t one single trait that makes an effective manager, one common skill shared among them is mastery in the art of asking questions.”
  6. Plan the quarter together – According to the same Gallup research mentioned above, “Employees whose managers help them set work priorities and goals are more engaged.”How Regular 1-on-1's Can Change a Boss to a Coach 2

Effective managers create relationships with each of their directs. And the best way we know to make that happen is to have regular one-on-ones. Want to start helping your managers be more effective? Click here to learn more about Six Disciplines’ Workgroup Alignment Kit.  Click here to learn more about the Six Disciplines Methodology.



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