Early in my career, my boss recommended that I meet regularly with each of my direct reports. He knew it would both improve their productivity and improve my relationship and influence with my team members.
I thought it was a great idea! And since I wanted the time to be as productive as possible, I spent weeks trying to figure out how to structure the meetings and when to schedule them.
Looking back – I wasted a lot of valuable time trying to set up and agenda for the “perfect” meeting. Which was a futile effort from the outset – because I was going to be part of the meeting – and I’m far from perfect!
So I did the one thing that I knew would get me going. I asked my assistant to put the One-on-One Meetings (O3′s) on my calendar.
She scheduled them so I would have two weeks to get ready for my first meetings. So, here’s what I did…
I spent some time thinking about my purpose for the meetings. I also envisioned what my team members would like to accomplish in the meetings and what they would value most about our time together. Then I wrote it out -
To provide a structured time to coach my team members through the four components of effective leadership (life planning, business vision, business planning, and priority management) and to fulfill one of my core convictions – people are valuable and are worth developing.
For more detail on this, be sure to download your FREE copy of my eBook, Creating Your Business Vision. It includes tons of practical resources and a step-by-step guide for developing vision for you, your team, or your organization.
Next, I scheduled biweekly, 30 minute appointments for each of my direct reports. I started out biweekly because I wanted to be sure that the meetings wouldn’t be too cumbersome by occurring too often without enough content.
I planned 30 minute appointments because you really have to be prepared to get through everything in 30 minutes. I wanted to make the most of our time together – so it was important to me that we structure the meeting to encourage both parties to come into the meeting prepared.
Weekly or monthly meetings may work better for you and your team. In fact, my assistant and I meet twice a week for 30 minutes each time. Although we work together closely, the regularly scheduled appointments are very focused and provide a time to slow down and address top priority functions and projects.
Use a Template – Download Now
Again, you don’t have to have it all figured out right now. Just start with a simple plan for the meeting that prepares you to listen.
To help me prepare for O3′s, I developed a One-on-One Meeting Agenda Template.
It took months of tweaking to finally get my agenda template into a format that was comfortable for me. You can save all that time and simply download it now!Download the Template Now
Preparation is the key to an effective meeting! [Tweet That!]
The more time I spend preparing, the more effective the meeting is for both of us. I spend approximately the same amount of time preparing for each meeting as I do in the meeting itself.
I review the agenda template and questions prior to each meeting. I also review notes from our previous meeting and the list of projects for the individual. Then I note the specific questions I will ask. This provides a basic outline for the meeting.
A critical component of meeting preparation is location. Pick a place where you can relax, focus, and engage. This may be your office, their office, a conference room, the campus cafe’, or the local Starbucks.
For most of my meetings, I prefer to use an office or meeting room because we have access to tools for coaching when needed.
Wherever you land, turn off the mobile phones, set the office phone to do-not-disturb, clear the desk and table, let the receptionist and your team know that you are not to be interrupted. Eliminate as many distractions as possible. This will prepare you for what’s next…
You will notice that the agenda template is mostly questions – personal questions, project questions, resource questions, follow-up and feedback questions. This is by design – questions prepare me to listen!
And we need to listen to our teams far more than we do! Bill Greer, President of Milligan College, once said to me, If you want to help people, listen as long as you possibly can before responding. [Tweet That.]
A manager recently told me that he can sense when someone is thinking about what they are going to say next rather than listening to what he is saying. And he can’t stand it!
We simply cannot be effective if we’re waiting for them to shut up so we can start talking again.
These people are trading nearly 200 hours of their lives every month to be a part of what you are building together – what you are becoming together. Are they trading their time for something worthwhile? What are you going to give them today that will change their life forever?
If you’re not ready to listen, don’t schedule the meeting. Don’t waste your time and don’t waste their time. Most team members are not interested in listening to their boss talk for 30 minutes (or more). It’s likely they’ll simply sit across the desk thinking about all of the work that you expect them to complete by the end of the day!
When you ask your team more questions than you make demands, you’ll be more loved & respected. (Ben Reed)
During the meeting
Just as my preparation improves the meeting, when my team members are well-prepared, we both get a lot more accomplished in the meetings.
- Accomplishments & Status – Bring a list of all current projects, with one or two sentences describing progress and status of each.
- Blocked/Waiting on – Note any roadblocks that are currently keeping projects from progressing. Describe the roadblock for each in one or two sentences.
- To do – Make a high-level to-do list of what you would like to accomplish within the next week.
- Areas to develop – Note areas of personal and professional development and what activities you have undertaken/would like to undertake to develop in those areas.
- Goal tracking – Review your monthly, quarterly or yearly goals. Note progress – You should be making steady progress toward fulfilling those goals.
- Action Plans – Record the results of previously established action plans including whether or not they are complete.
My downloadable template also includes an agenda form for team members based on these 6 items for you to give to your team members to help them prepare for the next meeting.
Make notes and follow up
This is where many meetings fall apart – after the meeting is over.
Mondays are my One-one-One meeting days – so my meetings are virtually back-to-back most of the day. However, I have scheduled 30 minutes between each meeting to process my notes and thoughts and prepare for the next meeting.
I also scheduled an hour at the end of the day to wrap up anything I didn’t have time to complete during the day.
I take detailed notes in each meeting on the meeting agenda template form. After the meeting, I record everything that was discussed in the meeting into a database. I use CoachBuilder Partner Edition from Building Champions. I note the action plans and due date for each that we agreed to. I list any items that I will followup with them between now and the next meeting. Then I email the team member their list of action items and due dates.
Since I began this process with my team, I have seen remarkable improvements in each individual. And I am improving! Our meetings aren’t perfect, but they’re far more effective than they used to be.
To get started today, download the One-on-One Meeting Agenda Template. This template is the most searched item on my blog from internet search engines and has been downloaded 1000′s of times since 2009.Download the Template Now
It’s a simple form that you can use immediately to prepare for O3′s and for taking notes while you’re in the meeting. The download also includes tons of questions to plan your O3′s.
(And you’ll be helping a great cause - All proceeds from your template purchase go to The GreenTree Foundation to provide leadership training, coaching, and counseling to high-risk high school students and help them achieve their dream of a college education.)
Question: Tell us about your experience with One-on-One Meetings – Are you just getting started? What’s working for you? What challenges have you faced? Share your thoughts in the comments.