Evolving 1-on-1s 28 February, 2018



A few years ago, teams where I work made the move from semi-annual performance reviews to having 1-on-1s every two weeks. Don't let the benefit of meeting frequently overshadow the fact that you can have bad or unhelpful 1-on-1s.

Everyone should have some idea of what to expect in a 1-on-1. Here some things I've learned.

1 - Figure out how each peer, team member, direct report, and leader is different. 
Understand what is important to them. These differences should be available to you at any time. If you’re not sure how to start, find out what the most recent book they’ve read is. That will tell you a lot.

2 - Negotiate personalized goals.
Although it is great to have team goals, most of the growth in people will come from personal goals. Some people may not even know the good that goals can do for them. Create goals for where they want to be as well as where you see their potential being. These goals should be easily available to both you and them. Goals should have a great deal to do with super-boss theory. Caring about the future of the business and the person equally.

3 - Understand expectations of each other.
No matter the roles of each person, there should be an understanding of what each person expects of the other. It is very revealing what some will limit or expand their expectations to.

4 - Always be upfront about excellent or poor.
It is much easier to have this steady and trusting line of communication than to ignore it for a long time and then have someone shocked when they are asked to set a goal, improve, or try something different. There are few things worse than thinking you're doing great and nobody caring to help you know otherwise.

5 - Be cognizant of the time each person needs.
Some people will only want 20 minutes. Others will need an hour. That is okay. The more that people trust you and feel like you care enough to make time for them and listen, the better.

6 - Understand the non-technical roadblocks.
Something I recently learned is there is a big difference in a person saying they can’t do something and they won’t do something. This can also give you insight into their state of mind. Some are willing, others are afraid to try, some really dislike change.

7 - Informally follow up between 1-on-1s
You can send a note to people between 1-on-1s as a non-intrusive reminder of the most recent 1-on-1. This helps avoid scenarios where action items were discussed in a 1-on-1 but nobody remembers until the next meeting.

Whether you’re running it or being invited, I hope you have a few more helpful ideas going into your next 1-on-1.

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