I recently coached an ambitious sales person with ten direct reports after he attended a three-day Managing People workshop customized for his employer by The Ken Blanchard Companies.
This leader was very busy, working an average of twelve hours a day. Due to scheduling conflicts, we set his first coaching session three weeks after the workshop took place. Research indicates that you lose 70 percent of what you learn within one week if you don’t use it, so we started the session by clarifying his top two challenges.
The first challenge was that he wanted to contribute more to his company and achieve a higher leadership position. The second was his desire to have his direct reports take over more of the routine problem solving so he could better balance both his managing up and managing down duties.
I asked him, “From what you learned in the workshop, what do you think would help you with your priorities?”
After a little time with him not really answering the question, I gently asked again, “So in your opinion, which of the workshop concepts would help most with your priorities?”
It took a few more seconds of thought, but then the answer came to him: “I feel that I need to strengthen my relationships with both my boss and my direct reports.”
“How do you see this happening?” I asked.
“I think I can achieve it through the one-on-one meetings they talked about in the workshop,” he replied.
From there, he swiftly identified how implementing one-on-one meetings could help him both upstream and downstream:
- Strengthening relationships through more communication: One-on-ones would allow him to spend more time with his boss learning about corporate projects and identifying opportunities where he could contribute more to the organization. The one-on-ones with his direct reports would help strengthen relationships by allowing a time to discuss their needs in a more scheduled way than through quick hallway consultations.
- Improving competence all around: He could learn from his boss how to manage big picture items and projects, and his direct reports could gain competence through his increased direction, coaching and support to help them solve problems that arise from day-to-day operations.
- Increasing delegation: As his direct reports’ competence improved, he could delegate more to them—and thereby open up time for him to be involved in big picture projects. Also, with the one-on-one meetings’ recommended best practice of the manager setting the time and the direct report setting the agenda, direct reports would become more empowered and would take more charge of the items under their responsibility.
- Clarifying expectations: One-on-one meetings would also provide the occasion for him to clarify his direct reports’ goals as well as to provide feedback on desirable behaviors within the organization. Additionally, these meetings would present a great opportunity for him to catch his people doing things right!
One-on-meetings become time savers with the mentioned relevant benefits for all parties involved when used on a recurring basis. Follow these five tips for getting started:
- Make one-on-one meetings short: 15 to 30 minutes in length.
- The leader sets the meeting date and time and the direct report provides the agenda.
- Meet at least once every two weeks.
- Focus on what the direct report wants to talk about; i.e., progress reports, obstacles, concerns.
- Show direct reports that meetings are valued and important by treating them as a priority. If a meeting has to be postponed, reschedule promptly.
It was fascinating how this leader—by identifying the need for one-on-one meetings with his supervisor—also recognized how this could help his direct reports. Need more time in your work life? Make sure one-on-one meetings are a managerial resource in your toolkit.
About the Author
Antonio Estrada, MBA, Certified Professional Coach is a member of Blanchard Coaching Services network of executive and leadership coaches. Since 2000, Blanchard’s 130 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.