Conducting one on one check-ins

Would you like to be involved in something exciting?  How about something big, special or important? Most people would.  And for those who wouldn’t, many would still like to be an integral part of their workgroup.  In this article we’ll look at one of the secret weapons leaders can use to build a powerhouse team.  A tool that continually instils a sense of importance and focus.

What are one on one check-in meetings?

One on one check-in meetings are held between a team leader and team member.  They are conversations that usually last no longer than 10 to 20 minutes where they discuss what is going well and what needs to change.  For such a simple process, you’ll discover they provide a big bang for your buck.

Why do one on one check-in meetings?

One on one check-in’s are a vital part of a leader’s role and the performance management process.  They are different to the everyday leadership conversations in a team where managers and their team members typically talk about work being done in-the-moment.  The meetings are a regular and private time slot between a manager and team member where they can stay focussed on the exciting and important big picture strategy. The sessions help remove bottlenecks to performance and ensure problems don’t get left unaddressed.

Leaders need to continually impart a sense of greater purpose to a person’s role.  If people understand the bigger picture, they’ll be able to contribute ideas and be more engaged in their work. They won’t be just fulfilling the requirements of their position description on a day to day basis.  One-on-ones are an excellent opportunity for the leader to:

  • Keep people aligned and, focussed on the big picture strategy.
  • Ensure team members understand how they are travelling.
  • Make end of year performance review meetings much easier by ensuring there aren’t any surprises.
  • Provide a regular bucket of time for addressing any issues.
  • Keep people engaged.
  • Strengthen the relationship with team members.

One on one check-in’s are great for team members because:

  • It helps them understand their contribution to the big picture strategy and goals.
  • They know how well they are doing.
  • It helps them to adjust if they aren’t on track.
  • They are given a voice and forum in which they can talk about issues affecting them.
  • It strengthens their relationship with their team leader.

In 2010 Gallup conducted a study that looked at the performance outcome of engagement.

Gallup’s employee engagement metric consists of 12 questions that tap into factors strongly related to productivity such as whether employees have the right materials and equipment to do their jobs, the quality of their relationships with coworkers and managers, and their alignment with the organization’s overall mission.

Each of these factors are continually addressed in one on ones. Gallup found that workgroups in the top quartile of engagement results were 16% more profitable than those in the bottom quartile.*

With this sort of impact on profitability, if you aren’t doing one-on-ones, you need to start now.

The perils of not making the time for one-on-ones

Without one-on-ones team members are unaware how they are going.  This is a problem because they can’t adjust if needed.  They can only keep doing what they’ve been doing.

People can tend to become demotivated in the absence of feedback.  This is particularly so for millennials. It’s true that feedback can and should be given in-the-moment.  But people crave to know how they are going and this isn’t answered in one moment’s feedback.

A bigger issue is that without regular discussions, feedback both positive and negative can tend to get left unspoken. Issues can fester because they are left unaddressed. Greater problems can arise as a result.

How to do one-on-ones

Leaders should start by scheduling a monthly one on one check-in meeting with each team member.  These sessions should be held in private.  A rough agenda is:

  • Discuss what’s going well.
  • Acknowledge any adjustments that the team member has made as a result of previous feedback.
  • Review progress towards each performance goal.
  • Discuss the outcome of any recent training and development activity and ensure it is being put into practice in everyday work.
  • Provide coaching for any development or performance improvement needs.
  • Discuss the big picture strategic goals and ensure the team member knows how they are contributing to them.
  • Give team members a voice.
  • Discover any issues preventing the team member from doing their job well.

The meetings don’t need to be formal and should not be template or form driven.  A great relationship won’t be developed by asking questions from a form.  They can be uncomfortable at first, but after a while managers will find the meetings easy to conduct. Like everything, they need practice to perfect.

It’s important to give the team member a chance to provide upwards feedback. If this doesn’t occur, problems can become bigger than they need to be. Before long, there’s a risk of the team member moving on as a result.

Some non-confronting questions the leader can ask are:

  • “Is there anything you’d like changed in the team?”
  • “Is there anything preventing you from doing your job?”
  • “Would you like me to change anything?”

It’s also beneficial for the leader to gain an understanding of a person’s career aspirations.  While it doesn’t need to be part of each month’s talk, the manager should raise it every now and then.

Keeping a record

Managers should keep a written summary of the one-on-one.  The record should provide a list of the discussion points and a list of any action items.

It’s important that this information is shared with the team member. Apart from being good practice, it also helps to ensure all of the relevant points are captured.

Become a one-on-one superstar

If you’re a leader and you aren’t having one-on-ones with your team, schedule them today.  It may take a little time to get the hang of it, but you’ll be much more successful as a result.  In fact, according to the Gallup study*, you could be 16% more profitable.

To make one-on-ones easier, a performance management system is invaluable. They provide a central location where you can look up each team member’s goals, determine development needs and record the action items arising from the meetings. Check it out and try it for free.

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