Discover more from And It's Up to You! by Antoine Martin
Turning One-on-one Meetings Into a Powerhouse. Really?
Work meetings don't have to be dreadful. With some intention and a little TLC, they could actually be the one thing that makes a difference for your team!
One-on-one meetings are often seen as a burden and optional thing by hands-on managers.
They are however a great opportunity to boost team performance, short and long-term.
They’re also a great opportunity to build the manager's coaching and leadership skills! Speaking of which, make sure you're subscribed 👇 to this newsletter!
Just another week comes to an end and with it a series of exciting one-on-one discussions with a variety of interesting and forward-moving people.
The profiles were rather varied: a couple of entrepreneurs, some innovation people, some salespeople, some promising managers, a lawyer, a banker…
What did all of them have in common? Two things.
One, a strong belief that regular one-on-one discussions help you move to your next steps a lot faster than dealing with sh** on your own.
And two, an understanding that the most productive discussions are the ones that are facilitated and channeled (as opposed to random discussions that go nowhere).
I'm a business performance coach so I believe in that kind of thing very much, obviously. Still, an interesting article by Steven Rogelberg (Make the Most of Your One-on-One Meetings - HBR, Nov-Dec 2022, link provided in the end) gave me some food for thought I wanted to share.
Long story short: research says that one-on-one discussions are a blindspot for many managers, and most of the time those meetings are considered sub-optimal by the collaborators who sit in those meetings.
The question is, what makes a good meeting, and how to leverage the exercise so every participant gets out stronger?
Sounds relevant? Here we go.
1:1 meetings are in a blind spot for many managers
There's something I keep hearing again and again when I talk to managers: “there are so many meetings to attend… I need less, not more!”.
There are meetings and meetings, though.
There's the team meetings that are focused on projects, with or without purpose, with or without focus. There's the team meetings without leadership, where nothing happen. And there’s the team meetings aimed at planning the next meetings, of course.
The same goes for one-on-one (1:1) meetings. No agenda, no purpose, no particular outcome, and no takeaway to leverage either…
In both cases, the experience is frustrating and, as far as the 1:1 meetings are concerned, about half are rated as sub-optimal by the participants (according to Rogelberg’s study focused on 250 interviews).
Why such a disappointment?
Because the topic of 1:1 discussions - as opposed to just 1:1 meetings - is largely overlooked and typically sits in what we (as performance coaches) call a blind spot.
The topic of 'just meetings' is there, under your nose, and it’s damn boring. The topic of leveraging empowering discussions, however, is hidden behind your ears, and accordingly, your awareness of the stakes is null.
And that's too bad because how you use the meetings is what matters the most. It's what gives the team direction but also a boost in terms of confidence, leadership, and productivity!
Just critical issues vs role & professional development
One idea we often have to deal with is that 1:1 meetings are a loss of time because while we chit-chat, emails pile up and more work awaits.
That's why many managers avoid multiplying meetings with their teams, for starters, which also means the teams don't get much guidance as to what's expected and how to make things happen.
In fact, that's also why we, as performance coaches, often struggle when we're asked to begin a working relationship with a new manager. The boss is asking, so they show up, but to be frank they'd rather be doing “stuff” than talk to us!
Building awareness is a big thing.
Why is that? Because meetings are usually organized and used so poorly that nobody sees the bright side of the exercise.
There’s a reason for that! Typical meetings happen when things go wrong or when there's a problem. They aim at correcting trajectories or at addressing issues.
Do they aim at building trust? No.
Are they used to create a constructive discussion space that gives people ways to think about their personal next steps? Nope.
Do they push collaborators to think about the skills they need to build? Uh…
Are they a source of inspiration and personal development? Uh uh…
Do they build a daring culture inside the company? Erh.
Result? Teams don't reach out to their managers unless there's a problem to solve, and they rarely dare put forward-thinking topics on the table.
Drop meetings. Make 1:1 conversation a thing.
The issue with the typical approach is that it creates a feeling that “meetings” are only for routine case management or for when things go wrong, and that's one of the most counterproductive things ever.
Instead? Make 1:1 conversation a real thing!
Take some time to focus on your collaborators, put some effort into building a culture of productive 1:1 thinking, and give your teams a chance to think constructively, way beyond 'just handling issues'.
What makes a good 1:1 time?
As Rogelberg puts it, 1:1 discussions are not an add-on burden. They are “foundational” because they build leadership (on the Manager's side) and engagement (on the team's side).
To him, a good 1:1 session ticks the following boxes:
There's a “focused space for direct report”
There's a “focus on the needs, concerns and hopes of the employees”
There's an emphasis on making the collaborators active, not passive.
The manager’s role, therefore, is (1) to make sure that the meeting occurs, and (2) to “facilitate” it by encouraging “genuine conversation”, asking enabling questions, offering good support, and equipping the collaborator “for short-term performance and long-term growth”.
Expect results within two to six months.
Another question is, is there any actionable result at all? And the answer to that is yes, within two to six months on average as far as Impactified is concerned.
One-on-one focussed discussions will boost your productivity after a couple of months and can make you save two days a week off routine work after a year.
Staff can acquire a Manager's mindset after just a couple of discussions, just because they have been provided with the right context.
The necessity to think differently and the importance of building leadership then become part of the new vocabulary and routine soon after.
And the top management will see autonomous mid-managers emerge within six months.
All it takes is to create a space in which the team knows it has the possibility to grow. A coach can act as a support but you can also be the coach for your team, that's totally up to you!
“Not in the same place” is not an excuse!
Oh, and location isn't an excuse here, by the way.
Rogelberg makes it very clear: while virtual meetings in the study were rated as less desirable than in-person meetings, their overall value was rated similarly regardless of the format.
I had coaching sessions with Hong Kong, Paris, Tokyo, and Los Angeles this week and none were in-person - you really have no excuses.
Takeaway: Make 1:1 time a thing!
Make time for 1:1 time, it's worth it.
Spend that time with the people you work with, they'll only get more comfortable and confident in doing what they need to do.
And if you need a push to get that done, or a personal discussion space for yourself then click 'reply' to this email.
Oh, and if Rogelberg's article picks your curiosity, here's a link: Steven G. Rogelberg , Make the Most of Your One-on-One Meetings (HBR, Nov-Dec 2022)
Until next time!