As a leader do you engage with staff via 1-2-1s?

  • 14 June 2022
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I was writing something about leadership yesterday and thought this interesting: 

“...regardless of seniority level, 1-2-1s are considered the most useful meeting in people’s calendars (versus daily stand-ups, team meetings, town halls, retrospectives, and quarterly planning meetings).”

It’s unsurprising that, for employees, the meetings that relate most to them and their work matter most to them too. It is both logical and indicative of human behaviour.

But has this importance of 1-2-1s been lost even though it has probably grown thanks to our pandemic circumstances?

So, how are you using 1-2-1s to improve your people and their performance (and the associated operations and outcomes)? Or have your 1-2-1s ceased or drifted into a review of simply performance stats that’s more rear-view-mirror than developmental?


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Hi @manns, funny thing, I happen to have my first scheduled 1:1 with my supervisor this week. Thanks to a new software platform that we implemented called Lattice, it comes packaged with the ability to schedule these types of meetings at any time. It has proven to be beneficial and I am looking to see how it goes, then encourage its use with other employees. I’m interested to hear how others are using this meeting type to further their careers and breakdown the walls that block communication.

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Employees are respected when they are heard. How you conduct meetings with your staff I think is a mark between Management and Leadership skills.

Each meeting in an organization should have focus and purpose. For example a Town Hall or All Hands meeting should be called to provide a certain platform.  To me I use those to learn about corporate strategy, where are we on the map of where we are trying to get to because typically that information is not rolled down from leaders in the organization and that drive dwindles the lower it gets.

I always had a monthly meeting with my whole organization, typically with some leader (mine or others) attend as a special guest to (a) let us know what they have going on and (b) let them learn more about us.  Then a weekly meeting with each team (for example IT Operations, IT Desktop Support, Customer / Application Support, etc) the purpose here was to get status from my sub-managers and their direct staff, what are they stuck on, where are they blocked, what successes they had so that I could unblock or celebrate where we are and also redirect where necessary.

For 1x1’s if you were new employee and a direct report they were weekly for the first 90 days. New and not a direct report every other week.  After 90 days (no longer a new employee) if you were a direct report then we went every other week. With lots of employees this can take a lot of time so I just kept a meeting schedule of Wednesdays at 9:00 week 1 is Bob week 2 is Susan, repeat. So I always had the time marked and just rotated the people through it and adjusted for vacations and outages.

The key thing for 1x1s to me is not waiting until the dreaded 1 year annual review where no one remembers details, it is about giving immediate feedback and adjustments throughout the year. In a 30 minute 1x1 I want 50% a personal discussion (family, career objectives, certification path, stressors etc) the last 50% talk about job and project related stuff.  My belief is If we are not building you or improving you, we have failed you and you should find something else. Oh and video for these is a must and unblocked background, keep it real.

My last 7 years, pre-pandemic we switched to remote working. To me it is much more important to retain contact with your employees than when in an office. In an office, just water cooler talk covers some of the above, out of sight out of mind people can get lost. Add to that a cultural shift of work/life balance and work whenever as long as your work gets done type topics makes you very disconnected in this new world.

Am I’m struggling with this a bit as I’ve transitioned from an employee to consulting. I still talk to several past employees on a regular basis or when they reach out but it isn’t the same without a staff you are accountable to.

My approach anyway.

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@zachary.king I used Lattice in my last organization it was good. The challenge for us was manager/employee needs which Lattice does well versus HR structure and rigor that is required for annual reviews and THEIR format versus your cute side applications (our HR called Lattice).

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