Not another meeting!

Do you feel you spend too long in meetings? I think most business owners and managers feel that at times.

Over the past few weeks I have written about the importance of giving feedback and a structure for conduction 1:1 meetings with your team members. But when you feel it’s yet another meeting adding pressure to your already packed schedule it’s one of those things that can slip down the priority list.

And that’s how your team will see them too.

So, here is the third and final instalment to help you get started.


Let’s start by remembering why it’s important to sit down with each of your team members on a regular basis.  The aim is to:

  • To motivate your team members to either continue or sustain good performance
  • For team members to feel confident that they have the ability and support to fill any gaps where they need development
  • To nip in the bud any potential problems which could escalate if left to their own devises
  • It’s an opportunity for them to have their contribution recognised – not just performance, but have their ideas heard
  • It devotes time to set direction and goals for the coming weeks
  • The net result should be an enthused and motivated employee who knows what they should be focusing on, and how this will contribute to the business

We all like to be reassured. And even if we make the assumption that “no news is good news” we can still left with that nagging doubt in case there might be anything wrong.

Finding time

One of the common concerns I hear is that the process is time consuming, particularly when you have 8 – 10 people reporting to you. It’s then easy to let them slip.

Look at it another way – ask yourself how much time potentially will you need to spend rectifying things if you don’t take that time out with them?

So rather than being over ambitious, schedule your meetings on a time frame you think you can reasonably achieve.

Use the 3 questions discussion before and stick to this structure so your team members get used to you asking these same 3 questions. Ask them to come prepared with their answers.

One to ones should be scheduled so both of you can plan for them and around them, and fully prepare. And nothing smacks more of “I’m not valued” than one to one meetings being continually cancelled for the slightest reason.

I’m often asked how often and how long they should be. There is no hard and fast rule, but devoting insufficient time can mean they get rushed, leaving the team member feeling devalued, or meaning you don’t have time to really drill down into any detail when needed – merely skimming the surface and achieving little.

Schedule your meetings so neither of you are distracted by imposing deadlines e.g. during your busiest periods or prior to your critical deadlines in your business. Think also of their state of mind at the end of a hectic day, very busy period or big project.

Getting started

Use your first meeting to establish (jointly) their goals and KPIs if you don’t already have these in place.

Identify what you want to achieve from the meetings.

The agenda doesn’t need to be written in tablets of stone, but it’s good to follow a basic structure so you both know what to expect and can plan accordingly. Linking back to your objectives there are some key elements to include, all of which can be structured around the 3 questions.

It’s far better to home in on one or two areas at each meeting so you can go into some depth, rather than covering everything superficially and covering the same old ground over and over each time.

Building trust

If people’s previous experience of one to one meetings up till now has been bad or at best just a waste of time, it can take time to build trust before these can be totally honest exchanges.

Avoid the fish bowl type of office or public areas. You want a free and open discussion, and you’ll not get this when there’s a fear they’ll be over heard, or others can see their reactions to any sensitive issues raised.

  • Make a connection: show you’re interested in them not just their work; ask about family and well-being.
  • Pay attention: listen, show you are listening, ask questions, avoid office distractions.
  • Keep it light: Yes, professional, but not overly formal if you want them to be open.

Make a note of any actions agreed, and ensure you follow through on any commitments you have made to the team member, so they don’t see the whole thing as yet another meeting or simply a tick box exercise.

In summary

If you aren’t already conducting regular one to ones now might be a good time to start.

Focus on asking the 3 questions on a regular basis and gaining agreement on actions moving forward, with some measurable goals and clear direction.

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