Positive working relationships are the backbone of a productive workforce. Think about it this way: employees who work in an environment where they feel valued, heard and supported are more motivated to channel their energy into their work. The result is greater collective support in helping the team achieve common goals.
The question then becomes, as a leader, how can you foster a foundation where your employees feel encouraged and motivated? It starts with prioritizing communication. Set aside regular, weekly one-on-one meetings (1:1s) with your reports.
Before the 1:1
Make sure that the 1:1 occurs on a regular basis, and is prioritized. While there may be times that the meeting is pushed or canceled, have those instances be the exception, not the rule. The key is to impart to your employees that you genuinely value this time with them, and are committed to working with them to overcome any hurdles and address challenges.
That said, set an agenda for the meeting and come prepared. Preparation can help ensure that these meetings are productive for all parties, and that they don’t become a basic run-through of an employee’s to-do list. Managers should already have a good idea of what is on an employee’s task list - these meetings should go beyond that. A general structure for the meeting is 10 minutes for the employee, 10 minutes for you, and 10 minutes to discuss career development. Take notes, and set reminders to follow up on takeaway items, and be sure to review prior to the next week’s meeting.
During the 1:1
Conduct the 1:1 in a private space where you and the employee can speak freely. Minimize distractions - close the computer and put down the phone. Listen closely and make eye contact as your employee shares project statuses, asks questions and shares any excitement or frustrations. It’s through these conversations that, as a manager, you can recognize areas for employee development through two-way discussion, course correcting and the assignment of training or additional responsibilities.
As a manager, it’s important that you have a strong knowledge of your team members’ responsibilities and that you are able to align everyone on priorities. It’s also a time for you to discuss how major company initiatives and/or changes will impact the individual or may open up opportunities down the line. A 1:1 meeting provides the time and space to recognize talent, give credit, motivate and foster growth. Discuss with your employees opportunities for career and skill development - like trainings, shadowing or additional projects. Employees value managers who prioritize their career development, while demonstrating an openness and willingness to communicate. If you have your employees’ back, they will be more likely to have yours, thus strengthening the team.
After the 1:1
Follow up on takeaway items, and check in regularly to provide guidance or assistance with moving projects forward. Attend to uneven workloads, reassigning as needed.
Overall, maintaining an open dialogue is huge when it comes to instilling a positive team morale. Regular, quality communication lays the groundwork necessary for a team to align on goals, and helps to quell any potential issues before they fester. Showing your team that they are worth your time and energy proves to them that they are valued, strengthening inter-team working relationships.
Click here for a cheat sheet of questions to ask during your next 1:1.