People often ask me how they can be more effective as a manager. One approach I recommend is to meet one-on-one with each of your direct reports for 15 to 30 minutes at least once every two weeks.
Having one-on-one meetings is a simple strategy and just plain common sense—but it’s not common practice, according to polling we conducted together with Training magazine earlier this year. When we asked people what they wanted out of their one-on-ones with their immediate supervisor, we discovered managers aren’t making time to meet with their direct reports on a regular basis—and when they do meet, they aren’t using the time effectively. (See infographic.)
Ready to get started?
Before you start ramping up your one-on-one meeting schedule, make sure you’ve established a firm foundation, which begins with clear goals and objectives. All good performance begins with clear goals.
Goal setting has two parts:
- Identify what the responsibility is.
- Identify what good behavior looks like.
When it comes to goal setting, strive for focus. Less is more. We often see people with eight, ten, or twelve goals—that’s too many. We’ve found that having three to five observable and measurable goals works best. Remember this 80/20 rule: Eighty percent of your most significant results will come from twenty percent of your goals—your key areas of responsibility.
Direct reports set the agenda
One important distinction that separates a true one-on-one meeting from other manager/direct report meetings is that the manager sets the time but the direct report sets the agenda. A manager’s role is to listen, ask clarifying questions, and look for ways they can help. One-on-ones are a wonderful way for managers to learn how to best coach people. As people discuss how they are doing in relation to their goals, they will share with their manager what they need and what might be holding them back.
Make time to meet
Managing is about your people—because when people accomplish their goals, the organization wins. Set some time aside to meet with each of your people today. You’ll be surprised at the impact even 15 to 30 minutes every other week can make!
I was talking with some friends at a recent morning men’s group. Our focus was on the importance of being connected to other people and what it means. We came up with five things we think help you really get connected to others—at work, and in all aspects of life. How would you rate yourself in these five areas?
- Listen more than you speak. We talked about listening a lot. If God wanted you to speak more than listen, he would have given you two mouths!
- Praise other people’s efforts. This one has always been so important to me. Catch people doing things right. That really helps you get connected with people.
- Show interest in others. It’s not all about you. Find out about people and their families and learn about what’s happening in their lives.
- Be willing to share about yourself. In our book Lead with LUV, my coauthor and former Southwest Airlines president Colleen Barrett said that people admire your skills but they really love your vulnerability. Are you willing to share about yourself? I think being vulnerable with people is really important.
- Ask for input from others—ask people to help you. People really feel connected if they can be of help to you.
As a leader, there are many skills you need to develop but building relationships is the most important thing. What can you do this week to listen more, praise other people’s efforts more, show interest in others, share about yourself and ask for input? Give it a try. You’ll be surprised at the difference it makes in your ability to connect with others!
No matter who you are, people can come at you daily with their egos blasting. Some egos come from false pride—where they think more of themselves than they should and want more credit for things. Others come from self-doubt and fear—where they think less of themselves than they should and are protecting themselves. How do you deal with these people?
Try to keep focused on leading with a servant’s heart. It can be part of your daily habits, such as how you enter your day by reminding yourself of the difference you can make in the world. It’s a matter of making a habit of practicing a helpful attitude when you are interacting with people. The question you want to keep top of mind is, “How can I help?”
For instance, if someone comes to you and says, “I’m sick and tired that nobody seems to notice my contributions around here,” you could say to that person, “What I am hearing from you is that you don’t think your work is appreciated. I think you are doing a wonderful job on …” and then be very specific as to what that person is doing right. After that, ask, “What can I do to help you get over this feeling of not being important enough? How can I help you through this?”
Or, if someone is coming from fear and saying, “I can’t believe it, I just got another project dumped on me and I don’t have time in my day to work on it,” let that person know you understand by saying something such as, “Wow, I can hear that you’re really overwhelmed right now. Is there a way I can help you with this? Is there anyone I can talk to that might be able to partner with you?”
A phrase I like is lead with your ears. Really listen to the person you are interacting with and see if you can respond in a caring and heartfelt way. When you ask the question “How can I help?” you’ll be amazed at how quickly it can diffuse the frustration another person is feeling. It can make an immediate difference to upset or fearful people just to know their concerns are being heard. By leading with your servant’s heart, you will set an example others can use to get away from their egos, move forward, and make a positive difference in someone else’s day.
People sometimes have a strange idea about what it means to be a leader, regardless of their field. Some merely “pose” as leaders because they are unsure how to lead effectively. Others may consider themselves to be naturally good leaders simply by virtue of their title or position, such as mother, store manager or lieutenant. To compound the problem, these people usually assume that everyone else also believes them to be good leaders merely because of their rank or title. The result can be insensitivity and a lack of consideration for those being supervised. Such an attitude can be death for any constructive leadership attempt. Following are two characteristics of a good leader or manager that illustrate this theory:
First, consider the act of listening. God gave us two ears and one mouth. This ratio of personal communication instruments should give us a clue about the proportion of time that each should be used! The hallmark of a good leader is the ability to listen to others, no matter what they want to say. It’s amazing how often this simple truth still mystifies leaders who think that their position means they should talk first and ask questions later, if ever. Many leaders forget how to be humble and recognize that they don’t know everything. In reality, they often have a great deal to learn about those they supervise as well as the job those people are doing. For some reason, they confuse their job title with some sort of overall expertise, which makes them overbearing and foolish in the eyes of their subordinates.
A second point concerns respect. I personally think it is a very important point to remember. Specifically, managers should treat those closest to them as though they were strangers. Let me explain that statement. Because we have people in our lives with whom we become very familiar, either at the workplace or at home, it is very easy to slip into a rather casual attitude toward these people who know us best. The result is sometimes an outward appearance of a lack of respect or love, expressed by how we speak or behave. When we are upset, busy or unhappy, it is very easy for us to snap at those closest to us. We may shout or become nasty or insulting simply because someone is nearby. However, if the telephone rings with a stranger on the line, we can immediately switch to a sweet, kind and considerate persona. Why? Because we would never insult a stranger with our surly attitude. This just doesn’t make sense. Why should you abuse your colleague, close friend, or child just because that person is nearby when a bad mood strikes? The answer is: You shouldn’t. Don’t beat up people emotionally just because you know they’re familiar with your mood swings.
Remember, the people you are closest to, at work and at home, deserve to be listened to and respected. Do you lead this way? Does your boss?