As Josh Bersin pointed out in a great article recently, we’re going through a “Big Reset.” It’s a great time to revisit how we work, and see how we can enhance it. 

One place to start is with your 1:1 meetings with direct reports. You’ve probably got a few scheduled this week. Here are six ways to strengthen your 1:1’s and make the most of your time with them.

  1. Make it a standing meeting. If someone’s motivation is suffering right now, they’re probably not going to send you a text alert! You’ll need to notice it yourself. A regular check-in on video – where you can see them and pick up on non-visual cues – builds trust and connection, and lets you see for yourself how they are doing. How frequently you check depends on what you and they need, but I recommend at least once a month. Try to avoid moving it or canceling it too often.
  2. Have a shared, running agenda doc. Create a document that you and your direct report can both edit, and give them the responsibility of adding the agenda items before each meeting. If they’re setting the agenda, then the monkey is on their back to think through what’s most important and what they need from you. Result: better conversations, and more ownership from them. It helps to have it be in reverse chronological order, with the current meeting at the top. My favorite tool for this is Google Docs, but there are lots of other options. 
  3. Reinforce the big picture. One of the essential roles of a leader at any level is to help those around you see the big picture. Reminding your team how their work contributes to the larger whole is a great way to keep people engaged, particularly while not physically in the same place.
  4. Be curious. Curiosity is a superpower for people leaders. Being curious suppresses our natural human tendency to make quick judgments, allowing the person we’re talking with to feel comfortable sharing what’s on their minds. Try asking open-ended questions, like: “what are you most excited about right now?” Or, “What’s getting in the way for you?”
  5. Share and reflect on feedback. The best time to share feedback is right after your team member does something feedback-worthy. But it isn’t always possible to do that. So spend some of your 1:1 time making sure they’ve heard any feedback you have. Especially the positive feedback! You can summarize the feedback on your shared doc, and that can help you track progress and changes over time. Help your team member put that feedback into context. What does it mean? What’s the best way to respond? 
  6. Ask for feedback. The current crisis is an opportunity for you to build a deeper level of trust with your team. And a great way to do that is to consistently ask them for feedback. You will find that it takes a few repetitions before your direct reports take your request seriously, so be patient, and show that you mean it by listening and confirming your understanding – without responding right away. You don’t have to agree with the feedback, but demonstrating that you heard them is a huge trust builder. 

The goal of your 1:1 meetings is to keep track of how your team is performing and what they need to be successful. When you know those two things, it’s easy to see what you can do to influence their performance. 

I’m a people professional and trusted advisor. I help individual leaders to get and give better-quality feedback, and I help organizations to cultivate stronger cultures of feedback so they can do better work together and learn more.