Need a place to go to get the solutions you've been craving? Management Fix is what you've been looking for. In this issue, find out how one-on-one meetings can reveal problems and opportunities that might otherwise not surface until it's too late.
It's only 10:00 AM, and you've already been blind-sided twice. Your test lead just quit for a job that lets him work with test automation, and you just found out that your documentation person is going to miss the date for the online help files. You hold weekly status meetings—why didn't these things come up? What can you do to prevent these surprises?
Even if you're holding weekly status meetings and you use information radiators to post project progress, you may not be hearing all you need to know to manage your group effectively. There are some things that aren’t likely to come up in a group setting, especially concerns related to salary, assignments, career development, and personal issues. One-on-one meetings are a good way to get that information.
One-on-one meetings aren't a new idea—but they still work, and they're a great tool to add to your management toolbox.
Establish an Agenda
Start by letting your team members know what you're planning to do. Explain that one-on-ones will help you do your job, and that you hope the meetings will help them do theirs, too. Then schedule a thirty-minute meeting with each member of your team for the same time every week. Sometimes you'll need a bit more time to cover a specific issue, and you may find that some members of your staff are very self-directed and you need to meet with them only every other week. You can adjust as you get a feel for how much time each person needs.
Establish a regular agenda, so people know what to expect. This agenda has worked for me:
- Status of work in progress
- Obstacles that are impeding progress
- Other topics the team member wants to discuss
- Review of your action items
During the one-on-one, make eye contact and listen actively. A big part of being a good listener is asking good questions. Open-ended questions invite exploration and elicit more information. Ask questions such as: What’s going well? What's going not so well? What’s getting in the way? What’s on your mind lately? What's keeping you up at night?
Questions like these get behind the status to what’s really happening for the team members and how they feel about work./p>
As you listen, check for understanding by paraphrasing (not parroting) what you've heard and asking, "Do I have that about right?"
By getting behind the status, you'll soon see places where people are struggling. Consciously decide whether you'll intervene or support your employee in working through the problem on his own. Offer help when a deliverable or project is at risk for missing schedule or quality goals. If the problem won't affect project or company goals and will provide a meaningful opportunity to learn, let it go (at least for now). You can always check in the following week to see if the employee is making progress or spinning his wheels.
Build on Previous Conversations
Because they are private, one-on-ones provide an opportunity to give feedback for minor course corrections. And they're a good place for positive feedback, too. Make a point of noticing and commenting positively on some aspect of the employee's work every week .
After you've talked about the employee's current work, review any action items you have from the previous one-on-one. It does no good to ask about obstacles if you aren’t going to do anything about them. Report back on the progress you are making./p>
Of course, you may not be able to resolve every problem—if there's a problem you can't solve, say so—don't let an obstacle fall into
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