4 Tips for Effective One-on-Ones

  • PAOLO REYES
  • LEADERSHIP

  • In challenging times, such as these, when there are obvious challenges—resource availability, technological readiness, and physical separation—and less immediately obvious factors—anxiety, loneliness, and distraction—the role of leaders becomes even more important in leading their team members through disruption.

    In an environment where physical separation and minimized contact have become the norm, it is easy for employees to feel isolated and disjointed, exacerbating the challenges each one already faces individually. And organizational and team leaders are in a position to serve as one the most meaningful links between an organization and its individual members.

    One of the most effective and proven practices leaders can embrace is that of holding regular one-on-ones with direct reports or team members. Below are a few basic tips for effective one-on-ones:

    • Schedule and hold one-one-one conversations regularly. The cadence may vary, depending on the size of the team and the shared readiness of the leaders and the team members.
    • Take an individualized approach to one-on-one conversations. While there are basic elements which have proven effective, each team member and each relationship has its own needs and considerations.
    • Keep to the team member’s agenda. The one-on-ones are about the team members and establishing and maintaining a meaningful human relationship with each one.
    • Respect the current quality and level of the relationship. Each leader-team member relationship will find itself in its own particular stage or situation. A meaningful relationship, with real connection, will need to respect this and start from here.

    In holding these one-on-one conversations, it is important for leaders to remember to keep the conversation focused on their team members and their own human conditions. This means setting aside the temptation to have a project status or work status update during these one-one-one conversations. Remember that the objective of these conversations is to establish and maintain meaningful relationships and connections. In doing so, leaders put themselves in a position to lead their team members through the challenges, anxiety, and whirlwind of disruption. This is not to say that leaders are expected to address or solve the challenges faced by each of their team members. Rather, it is a recognition of the opportunity and the accountability of leaders to help empower their team members to find their own footing, through meaningful connection and care, and enable themselves to progress through the challenges, find their way through and out of them, and stay connected with their leaders, their teams, and their organization.

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