As a team leader, one possesses both the privilege and obligation to encourage growth within their team. The power of one-to-one meetings, the weekly sacred moments devoted to each individual team member, can often be underutilized and relegated to routine reporting. But how can a leader ensure these meetings evolve into a rich source of insight and a platform for valuable guidance? This article walks you through it, step by step.
1. Assessing the need for weekly meetings
In teams where the team leader has a large number of direct reports, say 15, scheduling a weekly one-to-one with each member may seem daunting. It's crucial to assess the feasibility of such an endeavor; otherwise, one risks becoming a professional meeting scheduler. An alternative could be biweekly 30-minute sessions, with the express understanding that these meetings are meticulously prepared in advance.
For those leading more manageably sized teams of seven or fewer members, it is highly recommended to hold weekly one-to-one meetings. These interactions affirm the leader's commitment and respect towards each team member. By maintaining the schedule of these meetings, the team leader communicates that their attention to the team member's growth is non-negotiable.
2. Determining the duration of the meetings
A universally ideal meeting duration is a myth. It varies based on several factors, including team dynamics, the current work climate, and the experience level of the team members. Some leaders find a one-hour session per member effective, covering both operational and relational topics, while others stick to 15-minute interactions, extending them when necessary. The balanced approach appears to be a 30-minute weekly session, with the option to lengthen it to an hour once a month for more intensive discussions.
3. Meeting Preparation: A joint responsibility
The success of one-to-one meetings depends on both the team leader and the member being equally invested in the preparation. Entrusting the meeting to the team member alone can result in unproductive sessions, like one leader experienced a few years back. The meetings ended up being a monotonous rundown of the week's activities with no time left for addressing challenges or discussing personal development.
Rather than canceling unprepared meetings, the leader decided to identify the root of the problem. In this case, the team member expressed skepticism in the leader's ability to provide relevant guidance as the leader wasn't an expert in her field. Recognizing her discomfort, they shifted their discussions towards soft skills and team dynamics, helping the team member identify areas where the leader's guidance could be beneficial.
In order to ensure both parties come prepared:
- Both parties must understand the importance of preparing for these meetings.
- Utilize a meeting template (explained in the following section) to guide preparation.
- Use this opportunity to praise the team member's achievements and address areas of improvement.
4. Employing 1:1 templates
Effective structuring of one-to-one meetings enhances focus and productivity. Numerous ready-to-use templates are available online, or leaders can build their own to cater to their specific team dynamics. Certain golden rules apply when utilizing these templates:
- Keep the template in a private area accessible only to the team member.
- Dedicate a unique space for each week’s discussions.
- Fill the template before the meeting, ensuring its visibility to the team member.
- Include sections for highlights, challenges, and open discussions.
- For a lighter touch, encourage team members to summarize their week using emojis or .gif images.
- Maintain a record of all meetings in case references to past discussions are required.
Periodically revisiting and revising the template structure ensures its continued relevance and effectiveness.
5. Adopting a holistic approach
One-to-one meetings are an invaluable tool to connect with team members, gather insights into their performance, and offer targeted guidance for improvement. By encouraging open dialogue, focusing on relevant topics, employing structured templates, and fostering a culture of trust, these meetings can transform into a deep well of strategic insight. With the right approach, leaders can harness this transformative power to elevate team performance to heights previously thought unreachable.