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Do you enjoy having one-on-ones? If you see them as “getting in the way” then maybe a re-think is needed on getting value out of them. One-on-ones are different from the usual meetings, you can run them how you want; they can be structured or casual conversations, they can happen around a desk or on giant bean bags, they could be short or feel like they take forever! Over time I’ve experienced almost every variety, but this post isn’t about which of these is right or wrong but about how important these meetings are. At one point in my career my manager didn’t have regular one-on-ones with me, in retrospect this wasn’t a good choice for either of us!

Teams only make progress through the work of the people so any issues can impact performance. If these issues are not visible then it can be a mystery where the problem lies. Many people don’t feel comfortable being open about issues so a managers job is to create a regular space where each individual can feel safe to express anything they wish. This space could be different for each person, there are hard no rules, as you build relationships with each person you begin learn what works.

When you have regular one-on-ones scheduled your team will know exactly when they have an opportunity to speak with you. This gives them time to think and prepare, they could having been building up something to share for sometime so it’s important keep the schedule. Once you’re in the one-on-one do you allow the person time to speak? Listening is a key skill, if you keep interrupting them with your own agenda you will shut out opportunities for them to open up. Some people are vocal anyway….it’s difficult to shut them up…and this is fine, it’s their time so it’s a chance for them to vent, for many this is what they need to re-group, then get back to it. Others though need to feel safe, they may not be so forthcoming and you may need to ask a few questions to get to the issue.

Meetings are an enemy of the workplace…most of them anyway…but there is real value in one-on-ones. That value may not always be for the manager, your team member may find certain one-on-ones the most valuable time of the week because they’ve been able to talk about something troubling them that’s been building up. This is why one-on-one are so important, they can unlock something that we didn’t know was an issue.

But there’s more to it than finding out issues! It gives a sense of worth to the individuals, it shows that they are important, important enough that in a busy environment there is always time for them. What message is it sending out to the person if you cannot find regular time for them? Only saying “let me know if you want to talk” isn’t good enough. If individuals don’t feel valued, would you expect them to go out of their way for you? Trust is critical between the manager and team members, people may confide in you during a one-on-one, honoring that is essential for the relationship. You find that a person will go the extra mile to help you and the team out, at times an individual’s actions can boost the whole team, usually because they feel trusted and valued!

One-on-ones should be one of your most important meetings! We’re going to have bad days, busy days, but we shouldn’t let that affect our team or the way we interact with them, they are our priority! Once you’ve built trust and able to have open conversations you being to learn more about each person than you thought possible!

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