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The 411 on the Employee 1:1

The 411 on the Employe 1 on 1One-on-one meetings are a valuable, yet often overlooked contribution to investing in your employees where you allow for adequate time to meet on an individual, ongoing basis. While there are some common pitfalls, you can avoid them by following these 10 easy tips!

1. Schedule it. Getting your mentoring sessions on the calendar on a consistent basis shows a long-term commitment to your employee and provides structure. Structure and stability are essential when building a trustworthy partnership!

2. Respect their time. Now that you’re booked, be cognizant that time is one of the most valuable resources in the modern workplace. Canceling or rescheduling (especially at the last minute) can damage your credibility, so avoid it whenever possible. Be on time, or if you can’t avoid being late, attempt to be proactive by reaching out to communicate any delays. Everyone can empathize with running behind and your consideration of their schedule will pay off.

3. Add value. The only thing worse than a meeting that is going poorly is a meeting that isn’t going anywhere. Ensure there is purpose and passion in every sit down. Don’t simply have the meeting to have the meeting. It’s a means to an end (or at least cyclical). A 1:1 without purpose is like a car without gas. It won’t get you where you need to go!

4. Make it personal. Making your coaching sessions the right mix of the personal and professional will reinforce that you are interested in helping to guide your employee through career development while sharing in their personal aspirations as well. Not everyone likes to talk at length about himself or herself, but everyone I know has at least one thing they are passionate about. For me, it’s both my dog and music. Ask gentle, yet leading questions to find out what drives their passion, and make a point of inquiring about those things in future sessions.

5. Make it about them. The easiest way to show an employee their value is to place them at the center of your discussions. Sure there may be business transitions or goal planning to discuss, but those discussions can be easily framed around the person sitting in front of you. What role might they play in helping to navigate the transitional waters? Do they have any suggestions on realigning goals with the new or current business strategy? What is their take on all of this? When you make the future of your business about your people, your people will build their future around your business.

6. Share ownership of the direction. There’s a delicate balance to strike between steering the ship and completely turning over the controls. You don’t want to be perceived as overly domineering or passively disinterested. Consider establishing an ongoing agenda (either formal or informal) that works for both of you. I’ve had some leaders who preferred to start off and then turn the meeting over to me for questions and feedback. Others chose to start with me driving the conversation. Coaching sessions are collaborative and should vary with the individual. Part of the fun is finding the best way for both of you to pilot the ship!

7. Be real. The best you is the actual you, and most people will see through anything else you attempt to project. SO BE REAL. Were you just asked a tough question on the spot that you don’t have an answer for? It happens. Admit you don’t have an answer, but ask for some time to look into it, and commit to a timely follow-up. Then honor your commitments.

8. Check the compass. Perform a regular pulse check. Is the current direction the right one for your employee and the business? Are the goals of the organization still in alignment with the objectives your employee is working toward? If not, then don’t hesitate to attempt to establish consensus — plot a new route, and redirect the ship. Don’t wait until you’re too far off course.

9. Point out the gaps. Being a mentor often involves identifying opportunities for correction and redirection. These conversations don’t have to be unpleasant, but you do need to take advantage of 1:1 time to ask tough questions, actively listen, solicit feedback, and offer behavioral or tactical course correction. Don’t hold critical feedback until an annual performance evaluation. You could be seen as lacking honesty and transparency.

10. Put opportunity within reach. Employee development is at the core of every great coaching session, so continually place personal and professional growth opportunities at the top of your agenda. Often these can be shared with employees by attending offsite seminars, incorporating their knowledge into training or pilot programs, or asking them to speak during departmental or company-wide meetings. If you want to grow your business, nurture your people. They are your most valuable asset!

Hopefully these 10 tips on employee 1:1s will help you better invest in your staff. Do you have other tips that you can share? We’d love to hear from you! Leave your comments below, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter or Google+.

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