Blog: Power of 1:1 Connections: Why you should make time for your team

Employee Relations

Power of 1:1 Connections: Why you should make time for your team

Transactional focus often overrides the people-oriented approach for many leaders, as they become consumed by the task-driven nature of their roles.
Power of 1:1 Connections: Why you should make time for your team

It amazes me to  see how many leaders respond negatively to my question when I ask them, 'do you conduct regular 1:1 meetings with your direct reports and team?'

Their common response is often centered around having an open-door policy, believing that their team can approach them anytime. Ironically, these are the same leaders who are left shocked and bewildered when they discover their employees choosing to quit.

And leaders who do conduct 1:1 meetings may inadvertently be falling short in their approach, just like I did in the early years of becoming a first-time manager.

I remember, early on in my career, when I first got into the manager's role, there was a concept called management by wandering where managers would go around the office, check what was happening, and speak individually to people while on the go. Over time, this concept evolved into structured 1:1 meetings, and I began conducting them accordingly. However, I must admit that my initial approach was flawed, characterised by a mindset of quick problem-solving and a focus on delivering my own solutions rather than genuinely listening to my team members.

Most leaders fall prey to the 'me' trap. They feel it's about their day, emotions, feelings, results, and thoughts. Later, I learned that these 1:1s were for my people. It's all about them.

Many leaders are so consumed by the transactional nature of their job that they become more task-oriented than people-oriented. I have always encouraged my coaching clients to be leaders who get to know their employees more as human beings, than just task completionists. Too often, leaders get so caught up in the day that they forget their reports are people with feelings.

In our age of hybrid working models, creating an emotional connection between you and your team is necessary.

An "open door" policy doesn't cut it. As a leader, you must reach out to your team, not the other way around.

To be a great leader and influencer, consider giving every employee you manage at least 30-60 minutes of your undivided attention. This is the most crucial time of your day. Your people must feel like they're heard and supported every week. Make it about them and their needs. Tell them your stories of success and failure. Become a mentor to them during these individualised discussions.

Leaders must know their reports personally as well as professionally. It means doing at least a little something for their birthday, knowing preferences that come up daily (she likes tea, not coffee), genuinely asking about their kids, their spouse, or their pets, and noticing when something is off. If someone is overly tired or uncharacteristically upset, inquire if they want to share and listen.

When you create a structured time for your 1:1, you will require two significant elements:

  1. Preparation. I am not talking about the agenda or task you want to discuss. I am referring to emotional practice. If you do not prepare emotionally, your ego, negativity, stress, and tensions will arise during these individualised meetings. Dynamic equilibrium is your ability to stay clear-headed and see the situation as it is. It helps you bond deeply with your employees.
  2. Reflection: Post-meeting reflection on your 1:1 should be addressed. Often, when the meeting ends, the creative ideas die or are put on the shelf with no further action taken. Your team member might have shared a personal or professional concern. You must reflect on it, write it, see what help can be provided, and get back to them.

Meeting frequently and individually with team members can require a significant time investment but can help build great rapport.

A leader's job is never to get results directly. A leader's job is to empower and inspire their people to work towards an outcome. And investing your time in your people through individualised meetings can go a long way toward making you a great leader.

By taking the time to connect individually with your team personally, you are sending out a strong message that you care about them. You are telling them through your actions that they are important to you.

During every coaching session, I emphasise to leaders the importance of connecting with their team beyond team offsites and lunch meetings. The individual attention that your team receives goes a long way toward achieving great outcomes together.

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Topics: Employee Relations, Leadership

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