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If you are a manager, it is so important that you make time for regular one-to-ones. Even if your desks are 4 metres apart and you think you are totally in touch with where someone is, you still need to have regular one-to-ones. It’s a space you create where they know that it is about them as an individual and you will really listen to their hopes, dreams, fears and concerns. The depth of conversation that you need to have just won’t happen as you discuss mundane operational issues. So get those one-to-one’s scheduled in and follow the simple steps below to make it a worthwhile use of time for you both.

Step One – Focus on preparation

Get out your notes from the last one-to-one with the relevant person. See whether or not each of you have followed through on the commitments you made. Ask yourself some really good questions…

  • What do I need to tell him / her? (About behaviour, projects, news, meetings, workload, plans)
  • What positive feedback can I give?
  • What developmental / adjusting feedback do I need to give?
  • Is there something I can delegate or involve him / her in to help their development?

Book a place and time that you can focus and speak freely without being disturbed and if something comes up and you have to reschedule, always reschedule it right there and then rather than for some unspecified time in the future.

Step Two – Focus on them

This is their time. They should be doing most of the talking (at least 70% as a rule of theumb) and it should all be about them. Ask them some great questions like…

  • How are things in general?
  • How well does your job description describe what you are doing currently?
  • What is currently giving you most satisfaction at work?
  • What are your key accomplishments since our last one-to-one?
  • What has not gone so well since our last one-to-one?
  • What has got in the way of success?
  • What have you learned from this?
  • What do you need to develop to ensure success?
  • What do I do that helps / hinders?

Step Three – Focus on updates and news

What can you share with them that will help them to feel that this has been a great use of their time? What can you let them know about, what can you give them specific feedback on?

  • What else do we need to follow up on from last time?
  • What do I need to update you on?
  • What feedback do I need to give you?
  • What ideas have I had for helping you in your role?
  • What else can I tell you about project x?
  • What are your thoughts on these changes?
  • What do you think about y?
  • How do you think we can do this better?
  • What can I delegate to you that will help you develop in areas that interest you?

Step Four – Focus on the future

Keeping your team members happy, productive and staying with your organisation is a lot about matching their needs with the right job. Maybe there are ways they can develop to be more effective in their role. Maybe their role can be adjusted to better suit them and enable them to bring new skills to work? Maybe there is a new role that can be created or that they can move on to. Ask them some questions about this…

  • Tell me about what you’ve learned on this project.
  • What are your career ambitions for the future?
  • How might that fit in with the organisation’s plans?
  • What training and development do you think would help you?
  • What would you like us to focus on between now and next time

Step Five – Focus on closing

Thank them for their time and openness. Ask them what you could have done differently to make this an even more useful one-to-one for them.

  • When should we next meet to review progress?
  • Which of us is going to do what by when?

Read through the notes you have made and transfer things that need transferring to task lists, project plans, diaries and calendars. Follow through on commitments you’ve made and development actions you’ve decided on schedule the next one-to-one!

Shirley Gaston