The Backbone of Basics: Weekly One-on-Ones

Pack the lunch boxes. Buy the latest school supplies. Set the carpool calendar today. Students across the country are in line for back-to-school haircuts. Yes, that time of the year is here; it’s creeped on us faster than a four-seam fastball. Out-Of-Office (OOO) replies seem to dwindle down leaving less excuses around productivity and results. Memories of trips to tropical landscapes and 3 hour European lunch breaks seem as if they happened years ago.

Do not get down.

Moments have been savored through every Instagram filter possible. Perhaps your Camelot-esque tan will make every PTA parent envious of your summer adventures.

Now is the time to buckle down for a second half of the year. Be better, stronger, and smarter than any ever before. Produce the best results your team has ever generated.

It starts with focusing on your professional relationships.

The better your relationships with your direct reports, the better the results. Unquestionably, the best way to build a professional relationship with each direct report is getting back to the basics of holding weekly one-on-ones. At Rivalry, weekly one-on-ones are a weekly or bi-weekly meeting, 30-minutes long, with a set agenda between the manager and the direct report.

Good managers do them. Great managers master them.

“Engaging” employees has little concern around automating rewards and badges. It’s about developing a real relationship. Trust, respect, fear, vulnerability — just to name a few — mash together and create a bond sacred to the individual participants. Too many managers forget their first job: let their teammates know “I care about you.”  

Demonstrating you care happens when we spend quality time together. In the professional world, this is performed through weekly one-on-ones.

One-on-ones are the first meetings that get pushed to the “Land of Laters.”

Note: One on Ones are not performance reviews.

How does a manager make sure their one-on-ones are productive and even happen? There are 3 very simple steps. All three will help you get back to the basics.

1. Preparation

The one-on-one is for the direct report. To make the most out of this sacred 30 minutes a week, they need to be prepared as much as the manager. A best practice is to have the direct reports send over an agenda of the one-on-one 24 hours before it takes place. Understanding the structure of the one-on-one beforehand will provide clarity in topics to cover. At Rivalry, we subscribe to Manager Tools’ 10:10:10 philosophy. 10 minutes for the direct report. 10 minutes for the manager. 10 minutes for the week ahead. A well prepared one-on-one will have a set agenda reviewed by both the manager and the direct report before entering the meeting. Both parties will be ready to discuss follow up items from the last meeting, current items of the moment, and game plan the week ahead.

2. Execution

Assuming proper preparation has taken place, the manager and direct report have a sound idea of what will be discussed in the weekly one-on-one. The art of leadership is leveraged to its greatest point in the physical meeting. One-on-ones are meant to build relationships. Sitting down and reading through a prescribed agenda helps frame the conversation, but it does not dictate it. Does an actor or actress on stage read their script while performing? No, and neither should you. Listening to your direct report is the only way to understand. A well-executed one-on-one has the first 10 minutes squarely focused on whatever the individual report would like to discuss. Reciprocally, the second 10 minutes revolves around the manager’s priorities for the individual rep. Lastly, a strategic game plan is set forth for the upcoming week ahead.

Structure your one-on-ones using the 10:10:10 rule and you’ll wish you had another hour.

3. Follow Up

Discipline is a requirement of leadership. Holding yourself and direct reports accountable to the agreed up actions of the week if extremely difficult. Good managers have it documented somewhere, great managers remind each direct report what is expected before the next meeting. Following up from a one-on-one is even harder than having them. Hopefully your one-on-ones are scheduled on the calendar. Following up on agreed upon deliverables takes a degree of weekly routine and discipline not found with many managers.

At the end of each weekly one-on-one, a group of deliverables should agreed upon. Two individuals have expectations an action item will get done before the next meeting.

Simply put, great managers follow up.

One-on-ones are the greatest communication platform a manager can provide to their direct reports. Prioritizing one-on-ones is the first steps to getting back to the basics.

About the Author

Jon Birdsong is the CEO of Rivalry. Companies including General Electric, AT&T, NCR, and Mass Mutual use Rivalry for their weekly one-on-ones. Rivalry makes sure one-on-ones happen, are productive, and documented. Your greatest Rivalry is against yourself of yesterday. Request a web presentation.

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