One-to-Ones: They Aren’t Scary

This time of year people are beginning to think about pumpkin spice, Halloween costumes and year end performance reviews. Oh you aren’t? That’s just me? And here I thought I was “normal.”

I am a huge Pumpkin Spice fan, but that isn’t what I want to talk about. Year-end performance reviews don’t need to be scary or spooky. They are a year-round process, and they begin with your regularly scheduled one-to-ones.  

One tried and true leadership strategy is to focus on your people. I HIGHLY recommend you host one-to-one meetings every quarter at a minimum. Make it a priority. Not the weekly huddles, but the deeper “what do you want to do with your life” type one-to-one meetings. These meetings help you prepare, and stay on top of, the annual performance review process. They keep you in touch with your employees, and where they are in their job duties, their careers, and their goals.

Reminders for one-to-one scheduling:

  • Schedule them. Put them on your, and your employee’s calendar.
    • Not without warning though. I had an employee freak out once because I added a “coffee chat” to his calendar without his knowledge. He obsessed over if he was in trouble for days before he got up the nerve to ask me what the meeting was about.
  • Do not reschedule them, unless absolutely necessary.
    • You want your employee to know they are a priority, to feel heard, and to know you respect them, and their time. Constantly rescheduling the one-to-one meeting is an action that speaks louder than anything you could say.

Still a skeptic as to why you should hold them. “I mean I talk to my people so why do a special meeting?” Here are some benefits to holding one-to-one meetings with staff members.

  1. The one-on-one time creates a safe space for the employee to vent, celebrate, and problem solve.
  2. The airing of grievances. By being able to meet directly with you, employees can address concerns they have with other employees and not have it overheard.
    1. Airing their grievances in private can often be enough for employees to feel their concerns are being addressed.
  3. Established time to help struggling employees create achievable goals. 
  4. Ask the questions the leaders need to know. Some of my favorite questions include the following:
    1. Does the employee feel significantly rewarded, supported, and valued?
    1. What is their preferred method of communication?
    1. Do they have the resources they feel they need to do their job duties well? If not, what would they add?
    1. If they could wave a magic wand, what is the one thing they would change?
    1. What is the best thing about their job, the company, you as a leader?

Hosting one-to-one meetings with your staff can, and should, be a sharing opportunity. These meetings foster strong communication, they help you keep your pulse on what is happening in your office and allow for a growth opportunity (if they provide feedback that stings). Running a small business can have its challenges. Some are fun, some are painfully excruciating. These one-to-one meetings should not be painful but an opening for you to learn about your people, elevate your business, enhance your communication skills, and most importantly improve your leadership abilities.