Talent

The Formula for One-on-One Success

Today we present an article by Deidre Paknad, CEO and cofounder of Workboard. Paknad has been recognized twice by the Smithsonian for innovation, has more than one dozen patents and, in today’s Training Daily Advisor, she provides advice for leaders looking to get the most out of their one-on-one meetings with employees.

If you lead a team, coaching people and giving regular feedback—both positive and constructive—is part of the job. Prioritizing one-on-ones and doing the “soft stuff” that builds morale, culture, and people are strategic elements of leadership.

If you hesitate to give feedback for fear of being the “bad guy,” here’s something you should know: 57% of employees prefer corrective feedback, and 72% say their performance would improve with more feedback (Source: Harvard Business Review). It’s a disservice to withhold information from employees that informs your view of their performance. Put your people’s success in front of the need to be liked.


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To use this face-to-face time wisely, have the basic facts before the meeting. Using one-on-ones to run down a list of things people are working on or to throw more on their plates without understanding what’s already there is the formula for a bad one-on-one.

Instead, use weekly status reports or a performance and productivity app like Workboard to quickly see priorities, workload, and progress towards goals ahead of the meeting.

Put people at the top of your priority list, and elevate your one-on-ones with the three of Paknad’s five topics below. In the meeting, try these topics to connect, calibrate, and coach for more impact:

  1. Start with “How are you?” Then, really listen to the answer to connect as people. How do your employees feel about their work and how it’s going? This is the most valuable information you’ll get in the meeting, and listening has the highest impact.


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  1. Ask what’s in their way, and how you can help. Get roadblocks out of the way quickly so your employees can deliver the results you’re expecting. This doesn’t mean taking on their tasks or intervening with coworkers, but rather removing obstacles outside of their responsibility area that hold them back or slow them down.

  2. Sync on performance, alignment, and engagement level. This is the elephant in the room, and candid, consistent calibration is part of your job. Employees want to perform well and be on the same page with you; letting people know where you think they are helps them move up and forward. And if someone is off the charts, great—it gives you a moment to really say so.

We’ll reveal Paknad’s final two one-on-one topics in tomorrow’s Advisor.