One-on-Ones: The Secret to Business Success

One-on-Ones: The Secret to Business Success

If you’ve been following along with other blogs and articles I’ve written, you’ve probably seen me mention a time or two about the importance of one-on-ones. 

I bring up one-on-ones so often because they are truly the secret to building a successful company with employees who thrive and are empowered.

The benefits of one-on-ones to companies, leaders, managers and employees themselves are almost endless. And in all my years coaching leaders and managers on the importance of one-on-ones, I have yet to identify any costs to conducting these meetings.

What is a one-on-one?

This seems like it should be straightforward, but it isn’t always so.

A one-on-one is a conversation between an employee and their manager or supervisor that is driven by the employee.

An unstructured open door policy, a one-sided manager directive, or a casual catch-up in the office halls are not one-on-ones. 

An effective one-on-one provides structure, purpose, intent, vulnerability, and commitment.

The purpose of a one-on-one

Influential leaders are intentional and lead with purpose. The biggest purpose for one-on-ones as a leader or manager is to shift into a support role for your team members. This dedicated time should be spent understanding where they are and what support and resources they may need to efficiently and effectively do their jobs. 

For the employee, the purpose of a one-on-one is to openly discuss challenges, concerns, wants, and needs to understand better or complete their job. This also allows employees the opportunity to share both personal or interpersonal challenges that may be affecting their performance.

One-on-ones are not used to justify an employee’s position, providing proof of what they are working on. Nor should it be a manager directing the conversation, only concerned with the tasks and projects at hand. 

The benefits of one-on-ones

As I stated above, these seem too long to list, but we’ll cover a few of the big benefits of conducting consistent one-on-ones.

#1: They build trust. Not all employees are able or willing to share in group settings or maybe have a very personal challenge at home. One-on-ones allow for employees to open up and share in a comfortable and confidential environment. 

#2: Identify challenges and opportunities early. Do you ever feel like you’re the last to know when something is going on within your team? If you’re not conducting one-on-ones, you probably will be. And this may mean the last to know about opportunities or challenges that need to be addressed. The more you build trust with your team, the more they’ll let you in and even bring more to the table.

#3: Saves time. Would you rather spend time upfront preventing challenges or spend your time constantly putting out fires? The more time you put into conducting one-on-ones, the more time you’ll get back. How often are your employees already taking out of your day with questions? One-on-ones allow for dedicated time to answer questions, which can also turn into employee empowerment, eventually leading them to make decisions on their own, saving everyone time.

#4: Improves your bottom line. Employees who feel valued and heard will not only stay loyal but will go above and beyond. When you treat your employees with respect by giving them consistent opportunities to engage and be heard, you’ll see your bottom line move in a positive direction.

How to conduct effective one-on-ones

The details of an effective one-on-one will look different depending on the type of job as well as the individual employee. But there are key components that should not change, which include:

  • Managers should always initiate the one-on-ones.
  • Employees should always drive the conversation, while managers can redirect and support. 
  • They should be consistent (amount of time/day of the week, etc.) It needs to become a part of daily routine. 
  • Ideally, they should happen weekly or bi-weekly, but never more than a month apart (that’s only 12 conversations in a year if you schedule one per month).
  • To assure effectiveness, consider using guiding questions to stay on topic. Check out this free form I’ve created to get you started! 

Unique circumstances for one-on-ones occur, especially depending on the job—for instance, a new hire versus a seasoned employee. A new hire will likely need more time initially to get comfortable and learn the ropes, and they may need an hour each week, while a seasoned employee who’s been participating in a one-on-one for over a year may only need to meet an hour per month.

For employees who cannot leave their workstation, such as in manufacturing, it’s important for the manager or leader to literally step into their area to touch base consistently, still conducting these critical conversations.

Must Read Training Tip: The most important advice I can give apart from starting one-on-ones is never to stop them! Just because the past month was a great month does not mean the coming month will be great. As we know too well, things can happen fast, in both our work and personal lives. It’s also much harder to get started again than to just continue. You can always scale back the amount of time and the frequency but never stop them.

“You don’t build a business – you build people – and then people build the business.” – Zig Ziglar

If you’re experiencing employees withdrawing or suppressing their opinions and not talking with you, it’s time to schedule a free 15-minute health assessment with me. In just a short amount of time, I can help identify areas of improvement to get your employees and team back on track and thriving.

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