- A boss should maximize their 1:1s with employees by asking about top priorities and how they can help.
- That’s according to the leadership experts behind the books "Nine Lies About Work" and "The Making of a Manager."
- It’s important for managers to hold these check-ins at least once a week.
No one likes a pointless meeting.
That includes meandering check-ins between a manager and their direct reports (also known as 1:1s). In their new book, "Nine Lies About Work," leadership experts Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall explain how to make the most of these chats.
Buckingham is head of people and performance research at the ADP Research Institute and the author of multiple best-sellers, including "StandOut 2.0." Goodall is senior vice president of leadership and team intelligence at Cisco.
Buckingham and Goodall say a manager should check in with every employee at least once a week. During that time, a boss should ask two questions:
1. What are your priorities this week?
2. How can I help?
What you don’t want, the authors write, is a "to-do list." Instead, you’re looking for "priorities, obstacles, and solutions in real time."
Facebook’s vice president of product design, Julie Zhuo, agrees. In her new book, "The Making of a Manager," she recommends weekly 1:1s that last at least 30 minutes. Zhuo says it’s important to discuss top priorities, or the most critical outcomes for the person and how you can help them approach these challenges.
Why do check-ins need to happen so often? Buckingham and Goodall cite Cisco data that found team leaders who check in with their reports once a week see a 13% increase in team engagement, while those who check in once a month see a 5% dip.
In fact, Buckingham and Goodall argue that, when it comes to check-ins between managers and employees, frequency is even more important than quality. They mention data that found leaders who check in weekly have more engaged, higher-performing teams and lower turnover — regardless of what goes on during those meetings.
To be sure, you don’t have to limit yourself to the two questions above. Zhuo suggests "zooming out" every so often and talking to your reports about what’s making them satisfied or dissatisfied, what their goals are, and what they want to learn going forward.
As Zhuo writes, a boss should never assume they know what their employees are struggling with. She writes, "A coach’s best tool for understanding what’s going on is to ask."
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