Are you missing the most important meeting in your calendar?

I’m betting you attend waaay too many meetings. I’m also betting some are so poorly run, they make you want to hurl your laptop out the window of the 23rd floor.

Doing a cull of irrelevant meetings would be a wise move. I’m All. For. That.

But there’s one meeting you should make time for in your calendar.

Monthly one-on-ones with each of your direct reports.

Otherwise known (pretty much by myself only – and at the risk of sounding like a prize Jersey cow) as the MOOO.
MOOOs are one of the most valuable uses of your time as a leader, provided you do them well.  They are also a potent way to impact team productivity, boost morale and supercharge engagement. And who’s not for that?

I’m not talking about the ‘on the fly’ Monday morning million-words-a-second-quick-fire-non-stop-slightly-stressy-talk-fest. You know the one. Where we rush through the week’s tasks, ‘to do’s’ and ‘goings on’ so we can get sh%t done.

That’s more about the ‘what’.

MOOOs are a different kettle of fish altogether.

If run properly and held regularly, MOOOs can save you a world of pain as a leader. They can transform the performance of your team more dramatically than the All Blacks ‘come from behind’ conquest of the Wallabies last weekend (how good was that though?)

Here are 10 benefits of the monthly one-on-one:

1. Performance issues are addressed before they become a big deal.

Often, when we first notice an area in need of improvement in our direct report, it’s a minor thing. No big deal. But noteworthy nevertheless. Left unchecked, an unhelpful behaviour or performance issue can become a Big Pain In The Butt.

One-on-ones provide a platform for you have those useful, low key, ‘nip it in the bud’ performance and feedback conversations.

2. Highlight the good stuff.

The best feedback is timely, specific and with a greater ratio of positive than corrective. One-on-ones help you purposefully highlight any wins, achievements or progress your direct report has made. And that helps them repeat it.

3. Check out their motivation and well-being.

The MOOO gives you a platform to have a deeper conversation about their professional world (and sometimes their personal world as it pertains to their professional one).
You can explore what’s working and what’s not at work from their perspective. You can watch for signs of burnout.
You can pick up on subtle changes in their motivation and engagement.
You can check in on their well-being with a ‘how are you going?’ conversation.

4. Ensure their Development Plan is a LIVE document (instead of it being shoved in the draw and brought out once or twice a year).

Talking about the progress of your team member’s development in one-on-ones means there are no surprises when you have their annual or six-monthly performance appraisal.

5. Receive feedback from your team on what YOU are doing that is supporting and/or hindering their progress.

It’s likely you have room for improvement too. The key is to enable the flow of communication to go both ways. Asking for their feedback (and making it safe for them to give it to you) is an integral part of being a successful leader. Monthly one-on-ones force you to do this purposefully.

6. Reinforce important messages about company strategy and current (or future) change.

Leaders often underestimate how many times and in how many ways they need to communicate strategy or change. Your MOOO is not only a time to reinforce key messages, it’s a useful mechanism to garner your team’s perspective and thoughts about various initiatives.

Do they support the change – or not?
How are they navigating the new strategy?
Do they notice any bottlenecks?
What are their suggestions for improvement?

7. Brainstorm solutions to team problems.

Remember, you don’t have all the answers. And nor should you. A problem affecting the team could be solved by discussing individual perspectives in your one-on-one. This is particularly useful if a team member is shy or introverted – and therefore less likely to pipe up in a group situation.

8. Support them to improve in areas where they’re struggling.

A one-on-one is a great platform for a coaching conversation. This can help to raise self-awareness of areas that need support, and create strategies for improvement.

9. Strengthen trust and build connection.
One-on-ones are a great way to ‘put money in the bank’ when it comes to your working relationship. Trust is the cornerstone for effective working relationships and MOOOs support this more than the ‘on the fly’, task focused conversations.

10. Act as a litmus test for the mood of the team as a whole.
Meeting with every team member individually within a month will give you a better gauge of how the team is performing and feeling overall. You can pick up on themes and differences, which is always useful.

Not sure where to start with your MOOO agenda?
You can find a sample agenda on my Leaders Digest APP along with loads of other cool leadership tips.
It’s also featured in my blended leadership programme for emerging leaders called The Leader’s Map, a must have for any organisation wanting to support their emerging leaders.
Or… you can download a suggested monthly one on one agenda for free, here.

So by all means, kick those counterproductive meetings to the curb. But do yourself and your direct reports a favour – keep this vital leadership meeting, the one-on-one.

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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