Sometimes, just being there is all that matters–3 ways for leaders to get started

Several years ago, The Ken Blanchard Companies conducted a test on the effectiveness of regular one-on-one meetings between managers and their direct reports to improve perceptions of managerial effectiveness.

Managers met with their direct reports every two-weeks to discuss issues that the direct report wanted to discuss.  At the end of six months, surveys were conducted to see if the more frequent meetings impacted perceptions.

They did, but the results were mixed.

The leaders in charge of the managers who were being studied noticed a positive change in the performance of the managers and the people who reported to them.   From the senior leader’s perspective, more frequent conversations were having a positive impact on performance and morale.

The managers who were being observed had the opposite reaction.  They scored themselves lower than they had before the experiment.  The managers felt ill-prepared and somewhat ineffective in trying to solve many of the difficult issues that employee’s were facing.

The direct reports were the last group surveyed. Their reaction?  Overwhelmingly positive.  How could this be when the managers saw themselves as performing so poorly?  Hand-written comments added by the employees provided a clue, “My manager might not have all the answers, but they listen and they try.  I’ve never felt so well-supported.”

Getting started with One-on-Ones

So why don’t more managers conduct regular one-on-ones?  The top three reasons cited most often are time, lack of perceived skills, and a lack of training.  Don’t let that hold you back from spending more time with your direct reports.  Here are three ways to get started.

  1. Maintain a regular schedule.  Start off meeting at least every two weeks. The meetings do not have to be long—30 minutes is a good way to begin.
  2. Remember that this is the direct report’s meeting.  Your job as a manager is to listen, support, and see how you can help.
  3. Be easy on yourself.  People know that you have limitations.  You don’t have to have all of the answers to be effective.  Work together with your people to identify options, access necessary resources, and plan a course of action.

Partner with your people to provide the direction and support they need to succeed.  Working together to solve issues is a great way to build relationships and improve performance at the same time. Even if you feel that you are not very good at solving all of their issues, you’ll still be having a positive impact. Don’t wait. Begin today!

4 thoughts on “Sometimes, just being there is all that matters–3 ways for leaders to get started

  1. Often I think that the reasons you cite for lack of one on ones are excuses. Lack of motivation and belief in the medium to long term benefits for the leader binder this positive development work

  2. I had a manager once who, in addition to offering regular one-on-one meetings, conducted informal “management by walking around” sessions. This was at a small for-profit language company, so it was easy for him to simply stroll the halls and have informal chats with his direct reports. I admit I (as a direct report myself) was skeptical of this strategy at first, but soon realized how many small problems could be identified and addressed in the informal way as well as the more formal one-on-ones.

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