Never Underestimate the Power of a 1:1 Conversation
When we are talking with businesses, one key word always creeps into the conversation – Engagement. How can I build employee engagement? How can I encourage my people to engage with me? How can I get my people managers to engage better with their teams? It all boils down to 1 simple concept – Talk to them!
1:1 conversations are a great tool for team development, employee engagement and for acting as the regular catch up piece of your performance management process. Holding a regular 1:1 conversation or meeting with your direct reports allows you to check in on their productivity, morale, assists in mapping out opportunities for their career development or helping to coach them through work-based issues.
The problem most managers or business owners have with 1:1 conversation is knowing where to start, so we have created this article to provide you with a rough guide of preparing and facilitating these conversations to help you get these sessions kicked-off.
Preparing for A 1:1 Conversation
- Keep the Conversations Routine
Within our team we have a monthly 1:1 conversation between employees and their direct manager. These sessions are all booked into our calendars 6 months in advance, to ensure they occur at a regular frequency and to keep ourselves accountable to any work or actions we commit to completing within the previous session. If 6 months sounds like a big commitment to you, why not try booking 2-3 months in advance instead?
- Keep the Conversations Informal
Remember, these conversations are not to be seen as a formal performance management discussion. It is important that your direct reports feel comfortable enough in these conversations to bring up topics and items that they feel are most important to discuss. Why not encourage them to set the agenda for the discussion and you can guide and add in your perspective as the conversation progresses. Also think about the environment of your conversation – why not have a walking meeting, or a catch up over coffee to make sure it does not end up feeling stiff and formal?
Facilitating the 1:1 Conversation
- Listen to Your Employees
An important part of the 1:1 in regard to engagement is making your employee feel listened to and supported. Remember to actively listen to their points and opinion throughout the conversation, providing guidance and feedback that demonstrates your understanding and support. Put away the pen and paper so you can just sit and listen to the points they raise, as they will be able to see and feel your genuine participation in the conversation.
- Get out of the Traditional Performance Management Mindset
This is a big one! Whilst these conversations will assist to drive employee performance and engagement, they are informal catch ups first and foremost. You don’t need to be taking notes, documenting your conversations points or making them feel like they are being examined. Take these sessions to share your own personal learning and experiences to assist them with their problems and barriers. Coach them through issues and encourage them to open up to you during these conversations.
- Be Ready for Anything
For each of your team members, these 1:1 conversation may mean different things. For some, the idea of having a 1:1 conversation with a manager may seem daunting, whilst for others it is a welcome opportunity to develop and grow. As your team members get used to having a 1:1 conversation, you might find topics of conversation are hard to identify, but asking general questions to get them thinking about how they can best utilise these conversations will help them in the future, for example;
- How are you progressing on your 90-day plan? Do you need any help with any of your action items?
- Do you have any suggestions for improvement in the way we work together?
- Do you feel like you are receiving enough feedback from myself or other team members?
- Are there any projects or tasks current zapping a lot of your time that we can look at?
After Each 1:1 Conversation
Always check that your next session is booked in and if not, take a few moments at the end of the discussion to lock this in. Also, if it will help you keep track of any actions discussed or items you need to look into as a follow up from the conversation, make a few quick notes in your diary or online calendar to ensure they are followed up prior to the next conversation. It is key to building engagement within the team that they not only see their thoughts and issues are listened to, but they are also acted upon.
1:1 Conversations, when conducted properly, are a great way to make your team feel engaged and valued. If you are hesitant about rolling this out across your business, why not try with your leadership team first? As they get used to the process and the conversations themselves, they can start to trickle this down into their own teams and slowly introduce the rest of the business to the concept.