The essential components of effective one-on-one conversations


Effective one-on-one meetings between managers and their team members are critical in shaping the dynamics of today’s workplace. These interactions, when done well, foster strong relationships, increase employee engagement and drive organizational success. But according to an OC Tanner Report, 33% of employees fear one-on-one conversations with their manager!

These meetings, which are often poorly managed, disorganized, or resemble interrogations, only serve to further fan the flames of frustration. And it’s not surprising: so few leaders receive guidance or training on how to conduct one-on-one, so let’s set the record straight today.

These are the essential components of SocialTalent to make one-on-one truly effective.

Understanding the power of one-on-one

One-on-one conversations are much more than simple check-ins or updates. They are the cornerstone of effective management and employee engagement. According to our local experts, Jason Lauritsen and Linda Jonas, these conversations are key to “reducing uncertainty, creating clarity and strengthening relationships” in the workshop. They offer managers a unique opportunity connect with their employees on a deeper level, to understand them challenges and ambitionsand give the support they must be able to thrive.

The role of the manager in one-on-one conversations

Successful one-on-one updates are not just operational updates. Managers should avoid dominating the conversation, rescheduling at the last minute, or focusing solely on status updates. Such practices can leave employees feeling undervalued and overlooked. Instead, you want to be prepared, carefree, and ready to make the most of the session together.

To do this, there are three specific mindsets you need to adopt:

  • Work as a relationship: Recognize that for employees, work is an important relationship in their lives. Managers must nurture this relationship with empathy and understanding.
  • Conversations that matter: The emphasis should be on meaningful conversations that transcend daily tasks, addressing personal growth, career aspirations and constructive feedback.
  • Cultivation Mindset: Recognizing that people are naturally inclined to succeed, the manager’s role is to identify and remove obstacles, while providing the necessary resources and support.

When managers work personally in this way, they can dramatically improve day-to-day operations, build trust and psychological safety, and improve the experience, motivation, and engagement of their direct reports.

Learn more: 7 ways an organization can create psychological safety

Prepare for one-on-one conversations

Effective preparation includes setting clear intentions for the meeting. What matters is that you both have clarity Why you have the meeting and How you want to be present at that meeting.

Before the meeting, managers should do that reflect on the employee’s recent achievements, challenges and successes. This reflection helps to make the conversation more effective and relevant. It also gives you the opportunity to update yourself on activities you should already know about, rather than turning the session into an update meeting that wastes the employee’s time.

Finally one structured plan or agenda for the meeting, including topics and a comfortable setting for the conversation, is essential. It ensures that the meeting is focused and productive. It doesn’t have to be overly complex or formal – it just needs to be to give employees an idea of ​​what’s to come so there aren’t any terrifying sneak attacks!

As Linda Jonas states in her SocialTalent training:

“Given the importance and potential impact of these conversations, they are worth spending some time in advance to prepare for success.”

The art of being fully present

Being fully present in a one-on-one conversation is crucial. It involves turning off notifications, choosing a quiet location, and mentally preparing to focus solely on the employee. The point is to make the employee feel that this is the most important thing he can do at the moment.

Here’s a quick checklist of dos and don’ts:

  • Do not look at your phone or look in a second screen.
  • Doing make eye contact, even in a virtual meeting!
  • Do not take these meetings on the road – no one wants to be an afterthought.
  • Doing let others know that this meeting is important.
  • Do not interrupt your direct reports – remember, this is their time.
  • Doing practice active listening; it is not just about hearing, but also about understanding.
  • Do not ignore confusion – uncertainty kills commitment; if you feel like the meaning has been lost, repeat.

How many of these are you guilty of?! A big part of a good one-on-one depends on clear, concise and deliberate communication – whether with your direct reports, your colleagues and even yourself!

Learn more: 9 ways to communicate effectively as a leader

Conduct effective check-ins

The core of any one-on-one session is the check-in. This is the moment, usually at the beginning of the conversation, when you ask how the employee is doing – and you usually get a perfunctory answer”good thanks‘ in response. In reality, this approach is wildly ineffective. It’s a check mark at best.

So let’s turn this moment on its head and get real value from this interaction:

  1. Ask insightful questions: Start with open-ended questions that elicit detailed answers. Linda and Jason advocate for the “How do you rank on a scale of 1 to 10?It’s a simple change, but promotes more thinking and opportunities for greater understanding.
  2. Effective follow-up: Use follow-up questions to dig deeper into the employee’s thoughts and feelings. Are they at a 9? Talk about everything going right! Are they at 5? Here you can explore the positives and negatives and figure out how best to help.
  3. Listen attentively: Give the employee space to express themselves while listening attentively.
  4. Offer support and encouragement: Conclude with supportive and encouraging feedback tailored to the answers they provided.

Conclusion

Effective one-on-one combines preparation, the right mindset and the skills to listen and respond appropriately. They are a crucial tool for managers and essential for promoting a positive and productive work environment. In fact, data from Quantum Workplace suggests that employees who have weekly one-on-one conversations with their manager are 71% more engaged. These meetings are not just administrative routines, but powerful opportunities for building relationships and driving organizational success.

As Jason Lauritsen concludes, one-on-one is like:

The Swiss army knife among management tools. Done well, they can be the right solution for virtually everything you need to accomplish with your people: creating clarity, building connection, showing care, and cultivating performance.”

Would you like to learn how to best hold meetings? SocialTalent’s Leadership Training helps managers at all levels to excel. Contact us today for more information.



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