4 Pointers Towards Delivering a Flawless 1-1

With the final death knell sounding on the Annual Performance Review; leaders may now be wondering how they are going to manage performance or perhaps what they are going to do with the hours they will get back. According to management research firm CEB Managers will save some 200 hours because they won’t be filling in forms and conducting interviews. That’s a lot of hours!

Of course this begs the question how should leaders spend those hours to make an impact on the business. I am tempted to write that almost anything they do has to better than the once a year debacle that undermined relationships and usually failed to move the business forward because it was always a look in ‘the rear view mirror.’ But of course that would be far too cynical!

It’s not new news that leaders will have to conduct present performance reviews commonly known as 1-1’s in order to manage performance. However working in the leadership development field for many years if I had $1 for every poorly delivered 1-1 I have seen or heard about I would indeed be a rich woman!

So here are few pointers that I’ve shared over the years when coaching leaders to deliver better 1-1s.

  1. Schedule them so they are regular.

The same day and the same time every other week for 30-45 minutes- any longer and it will be time wasted. The frequency of the meetings will lead to better quality conversations focused on what’s happening now. The emphasis on frequency is important here. Have you ever thought that when you check in with friends on a regular basis the conversations are easy to have, usually more meaningful and of course up to date. The same can be said of 1-1s with your team members and peers. When you meet frequently with a focus on the key tasks and goals the conversation is richer and more meaningful to both parties.

  1. Don’t cancel them unless you are ill or there is major crisis.

Canceling or postponing them sends a message that the team member is not the most important person. And while I am sure you can explain your way out of one cancellation with a nod to Oscar Wilde canceling two would be considered uncaring by your direct report.

  1. Get the direct report to do all the work.

I had a boss who was well known for empowering his workforce. And in week one, we had our first meeting and he gave me the 1-1 form he used and told me I should complete it, send him a copy a few days before our 1-1 and then I should conduct the meeting. It took a little getting used to and by the third meeting we had it nailed. Even better within about six months we did away with the forms and I led the meetings. Not only did he save his time but also I was truly empowered to talk about the things that really got in my way of making my best contribution.

  1. Start with clarity around goals

This is simple, well it should be, but those of us who set goals know it ain’t so! Setting a good goal is tricky. I like the version of SMART where I the M isn’t measurable but motivational. Because if it isn’t what’s the point of doing it. And when no one is clear why it is important performance will drop off. And remember that every 1-1 conversation should be about the achievement of the goals.

A well-structured 1-1 creates a dialogue around the most important tasks and goals that need to be accomplished. And provides an opportunity for the leader to ensure the right alignment of an individual’s goals with those of the department and the organization. In addition their job is to check for competence and build it where appropriate in the now rather than some months after the fact. They also need to remove roadblocks and provide resources, whether that be, budget, equipment of access to key personnel. All of these can be achieved with the 1-1 in the now. It’s so obvious! But often with the obvious it is overlooked or practiced sloppily. If there are a few hours left out of your 200 – then please share your tips for a flawless 1-1.


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