We recently talked about mistakes to avoid in your one-on-one’s with your manager. This week, let’s look at mistakes you might be making – and should avoid – in one-on-one’s if you’re the boss.
We’ve talked about some of the basics in the past: Ask your staff member to prepare an agenda; spend most of your time on items that truly require conversation, not just on general updates; ask probing questions to figure out how work is really playing out; and give feedback as a regular part of these meetings. If you’re doing all that, you’re already ahead of the game! But now, let’s refine your check-ins further, by ensuring that you’re not making these four common mistakes.
1. Not taking a few minutes to reflect and prepare before the meeting. Hopefully you’ve asked your staff member to create an agenda for the meeting, but be sure that you’re also setting aside time to review it before you meet. If you’re walking into the meeting cold, you won’t have had the time to really think about the items your staff member has indicated she’d like to discuss, and you probably won't have had time to think about items of your own that you want to allot time for.
2. Not letting your staff member run the meeting. If you want to help your team members take more ownership over their work, having them run your one-on-one’s is a great way to reinforce that. By putting them in charge of thinking through the agenda and how to make the best use of your time together, and by letting them set the pace of the meeting, you’re giving them responsibility for being thoughtful and strategic about what they need from you in order to keep their realms running as effectively as possible. Coach people to do this, and you’ll reap the benefits through a more engaged team.
3. Only talking about ongoing work or projects that are coming up, and neglecting to debrief work that recently finished. It’s easy to fall into this habit – after all, work that’s still in process or coming up quickly on the horizon is the most urgent and pressing. But if you don’t set aside time to talk over how recently completed work went, you’re losing out on one of the most valuable opportunities you have to develop your staff members’ skills and set them up to get better and better at what they do (or to talk about ways someone might be falling short, if that’s the case).
4. Not prioritizing them. If you cancel check-ins, regularly reschedule, or don't hold them at all, you’re shortchanging yourself and your team. Sometimes managers feel that they talk so often with staff members throughout the week that there’s no need for a separate check-in, but even in that context there are real benefits to check-ins: They provide structured time to reflect on progress, give feedback, and talk about bigger picture issues that often won’t otherwise come up in the course of day to day work.