For ages, managers believed that the most efficient way to communicate with their staff was to gather them all for a weekly team meeting. That sentiment has changed; now individual one-on-one meetings are equally as important. Leaders and Managers have found that they can more efficiently and accurately help employees when meeting with them personally, even if these meetings only last about 20 minutes. 

The idea behind one-on-ones is primarily to help the worker, realigning them with their goals, answering their questions, and giving them direction with tasks they may be struggling with. It works well – 53% of employees consider weekly one-on-ones to be a very important part of their work experience.

While these meetings certainly help workers get ahead, you might not have considered the idea that they can be just as helpful for the managers leading them. It’s a synergetic meeting, after all; both people are cooperating on the same playing field. Whether a simple jam sesh or an urgent scramble to get updates on a project, a manager can get a lot out of a one-on-one. Here are six of the biggest benefits:

1. Giving Active Input

The most evident advantage that one-on-ones give is your ability as a manager to provide live feedback to someone who’s growing as a team member. You could jot down some notes about areas they need to improve upon, or they could be the ones to ask for advice about an aspect of their job during the meeting. Try using a tool that makes one on ones easy by laying out talking points, recording progress you made during your discussions and scheduling them on a regular basis.

There will inevitably be moments where your staff is a little off-track on an assignment, or a miscommunication has arisen that you weren’t aware of. One-on-ones provide an opportunity to steer the ship without it sailing too far off course.

Not all feedback has to be constructive criticism, of course – recognize your staff for their achievements and any ways they’ve impressed you over the last week. When your best employees consistently get positive reinforcement, they’ll stay motivated to keep going above and beyond.

2. Developing a rapport

When you meet with your workers individually, you get to know them as people much more thoroughly than you would from a series of conference meetings. It’s not necessarily about asking personal questions – it’s about learning their interests, the ways they prefer to work, and their strengths & weaknesses.

Getting to know your employees personally is great too, but its efficacy depends on the person. In any case, weekly one-on-ones give you the chance to both bond with your team and become more comfortable collaborating with each of them. You’ll get to learn what type of communication they prefer and what management style works best for them, which will pay dividends in the long run.

3. Growing your workplace culture

In your time leading your staff, you’ve probably tried to develop a specific workplace culture. No matter how much you push it and how clearly you’ve laid it out, however, it’s difficult to determine how successful your efforts have been when you’re peering in from the outside.

Along with improving your bond with your team, one-on-ones give you an accurate sense of your office culture. A whole is the sum of its parts; if some of your employees indicate that they’re disgruntled or totally misaligned, you know the work you need to do and where it needs to start.

Maintaining a harmonious workplace environment is vital. Individual meetings give you the power to plug yourself in to the culture and either watch it flourish or adjust its faults. With a rotating set of one-on-ones, you’ll even be able to receive indirect feedback on how your efforts are being taken.

4. Strengthening your coaching muscles

As you cycle through one-on-ones, something will start to happen that you may not even notice – you’ll get better at coaching and leading. Over time, after hundreds of meetings, problems to solve and assignments to collaborate on, you’ll be equipped to handle anything that comes your way.

For a lot of people leaders, seeing the “big picture” isn’t the challenge, but reading in between the lines when it comes to the small pictures. Being a people leader includes being a person leader, and the more individual meetings you have, the more adept you’ll be at fixing specific problems and coaching your employees to success.

5. Receiving your own feedback

Speaking of feedback, it’s important for managers to set an example by being open to receiving feedback from their employees during one-on-ones. You’ll often enter the meeting with comments or constructive criticism to give, and your employees will be more receptive to such feedback if they’re allowed to give their own.

Of course, there’s a difference between advice/criticism and outright admonishment, but I think you’ll be able to recognize when that line is crossed. When both sides are cordial with their feedback, it’s a total win-win – your team will respect your constructive criticism, and you may very well leave having learned new information that you can use to adjust your management style. Development is a two-way street, and you don’t want any traffic.

6. Helping your bottom line

If you’ve been reading this skeptically and thinking to yourself, “Gosh, well, none of this is quantifiable,” I have great news! A Harvard Business Review study found that teams whose managers spent at least 16 minutes of one-on-one time with each direct per week had 30% percent more engaged direct reports than the average manager at 9 minutes per week.

Now, does employee engagement help your bottom line? Of course it does – as we discuss here, disengaged teams cost organizations around $550 billion per year. Engaged teams perform and communicate more effectively, giving your company a free advantage over most competitors.

There are plenty of ways to engage your employees, and weekly one-on-ones are one of the best. Don’t let your only face to face time be during an annual performance review, sit down with your team once a week and watch how much it helps.

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