Feedback is essential in flourishing teams. Yet the drain on our time and emotional reserves as managers can cause us to neglect our duty to regularly check in with individual team members.
One-on-ones don’t have to always be formal but they should be identifiable. Michael Eisner tells the story that when he led Disney, he inadvertently made a comment to a colleague in the washroom that almost led to a corporate disaster. The recipient took his off-the-cuff remark as being a strategic decision. Everything we say as leaders is noted, especially when it concerns our team members’ careers.
The best managers have one-to-ones with their direct reports every week, these can be in an office, over lunch, whilst taking a walk or during a journey. Most leaders report that holding them back to back in the same room on the same day is exhausting and ineffective for both the manager and team member. So find a routine and format that works for you, just be sure that there’s no doubt when a one-on-one is taking place as opposed to a washroom chat.
Pros of one-on-ones:
Demonstrate interest in the person, beyond the role
Early warning of discontent
An opportunity to hold one another to account
Most people crave an opportunity to be listened to
Team member performance is driven by manager
Cons of one-on-ones:
Easy to postpone – when we do, what message does this convey?
It can be hard to achieve depth of conversation
Feedback should be two way and can be difficult to receive
Effective one-to-one meetings generate additional work
Very difficult to achieve if you have over 7 (i.e. too many) direct reports
For suggestions of what to cover during one-on-ones, see our latest blog- Questions You Should be Asking Your Team