How to make the most of your meetings

The adage ‘you will never know if you don’t ask’ is a good rule of thumb when it comes to catching up with your employees. Sarah Dawson looks at how to get the most out of the modern day 1:1 meeting

The modern day workplace meeting is vastly different from days gone by.

Forget serious, clinical boardroom events, today we have walking meetings, town hall gatherings and Zoom coffee catch-ups.

The intention is that a relaxed environment will make participants feel more relaxed and comfortable to share.

The less formal and intimidating the meeting, the more likely the conversation will flow and the real nitty gritty will come to the surface.

The regular 1:1 meeting is a critical part of the employee/ manager relationship.

Elizabeth Grace Saunders, the author of How to Invest Your Time Like Money, says: “Regular 1:1 meetings are one of the most important productivity tools you have as a manager”.

It is difficult to predict the exact outcome or where the 1:1 meeting may lead; as a manager or team leader your role is to find value and provide encouragement to stimulate the conversation.

These blocks of time help to build the relationship, so asking open-ended questions, talking less, engaging in active listening and reassuring your peer that this is a safe place to share will bring the best results.

To maximise the check-in process listed below, there are three questions you should always ask.

The point is to encourage an employee-led discussion rather than a manager-driven conversation, and means it is a space for an employee to bring up their thoughts, problems and questions.

Facilitating this type of conversation will help you connect with areas that the employee needs help navigating, uncover growth opportunity and help to unpack where assistance may be required to align with the business goals.

How is it going?

An unarmed conversational question that is broad and non-specific sets the tone.

If this is met with a simple one word answer such as ‘good’ or ‘OK’ be prepared to encourage further – ‘That’s great, tell me what has been going well’ or ‘What have you and the team had happen since we met last?’

You are looking to hear about challenges, opportunities to assist with goals, and get a general feel for your team member’s engagement and connection to the business needs.

What are you unable to move forward on right now?

Checking in on roadblocks will give you greater insight into what is going on in your employee’s mind – what is keeping them up at night? What are they coming into work thinking about each day that they need to tackle?

Listen carefully to the answer, as generally the challenge is clear but working through a solution or the causes that may have led to the problem should be your goal.

It will help you list the priorities for the week ahead and arm them with a solid list of actionable items that will help them feel focused.

Is there anything else?

Sometimes it may take a little while for the conversation to warm up.

Asking this question at the end, after your team member has seen your support and reactions to their questions and concerns, means they may feel more  comfortable to share something that is on their mind.

Keep an open mind in a 1:1 meeting and focus on what you hear your employee needs.

You will often have your agenda, and the trick is to be able to listen to the challenges, help them find a path to the solution and also weave in your needs. If you can achieve these three points, you have mastered the art of the modern day 1:1.

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Sarah Dawson

Sarah Dawson is the Chief Customer Officer at PropertyMe.