Conducting Effective One-on-Ones

One of the fundamentals of effective leadership is being able to identify and create frequent and open communication forums with their employees. The general wisdom is that managers can best accomplish this by holding regular one-on-one meetings with direct reports. This simple sounding activity is often the most overlooked aspect in managers job and employees fret about it being either ineffective or worse not happening at all.

Keeping a track of your one-on-ones by following these simple rules can make them more productive and useful for both the manager as well as the employee.

    1. Regular – make it weekly or fortnightly, don’t miss it
    2. Focus – Focus should be on the team member, let him/her do the most of the talking.
    3. Make notes and follow up – Create a tracking form to capture updates
    4. Have one-on-one with each direct report
    5. Be prepared for the meeting
  2. WHERE
    1. Not in Public
    2. Office cubicle/ cabin with closed doors
    3. Any neutral space
    1. Ideally 30 mins – this can differ according to the employee needs
    2. Structure these 30 mins – 10 min for him/her, 10 min for manager/ 10 min for wrap up/ action plan/last meeting review
    1. How has been your week like?
    2. Family/ Weekend/ Hobbies
    3. Project/ Initiatives you are working on
    4. What challenges were faced?
    5. On track to meet deadlines?
    6. Any suggestions for improvement?
    7. Any questions about the project?
    8. Where can I help?
    9. What are your thoughts on changes suggested by me?
    10. How are you going to approach this challenge?
    11. How can we do this better?
    12. What are your future goals for this area?
    13. What is your plan to get their?
    14. What do you plan to do differently next time?
    15. What have you learned from this project?
    1. Eye Contact – Pay undivided attention to your employee
    2. Open/ relaxed posture, no crossing arms, legs
    3. Evaluate employee’s body language – the success of the one-on-one can be evaluated by watching the employees energy, enthusiasm and motivation at the end of the session.



What makes employee recognition programmes successful?


Here’s a typical conversation between an HR business partner and a line manager –

Line Manager – “We are facing a major problem of employee demotivation. I need to fix it asap before my results plummet badly.”

HR business partner – “Well, there could be many things causing demotivation. First, tell me, what is happening about the reward and recognition programme we put in place?”

“Its happening .. but on and off, but that can’t be the reason. We have an awesome incentive plan in place. Its transparent and quite a few employees end up making good money. Infact, its been rated as one of the best ones in the industry”

One of the most common mis-concepts amongst managers is to equate incentive schemes with reward and recognition programmes. However, one needs to understand the very crucial difference between the two. While incentive programmes focus on the what (what was your target achievement this year?), recognition programmes focus on the how (how did you go about achieving such great results?). While incentives urge employees to attain a particular target in a defined time frame, recognitions are more long term. Recognitions revolve around the behaviours displayed by the employees to reach the end results especially behaviours that are aligned with your company’s core values. They recognize employees for the effort put in in achieving a set of results. Traditional annual performance reviews can be frustrating if there is no discussion and understanding of what employees have been doing. It is even more frustrating when employees have been going out of their way to deliver results, and they receive no recognitions for their effort.

As such, the first principle of an effective recognition programme is quite simple – give recognitions based on behaviours. Find a platform (newsletter, online forum, cafeteria meetings etc) where you share what your employees have done to get the recognition. Share specific behaviours and link them to the company’s core values.

The other important aspect of an effective recognition programme is that it should be continuous and real time. To achieve this, encourage your whole organization to give out recognitions regardless of their positions. Recognitions should not necessarily trickle from top to bottom.

One of the most pertinent examples of an effective employee recognition programme is NSF International, a public health and safety organization headquartered in Michigan. The company has tripled in size over the last 10 years, including opening new offices in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. As NSF grew and spanned across more time zones, real time employee recognition and engagement had become a challenge. They launched a global recognition programme, called ‘Give a WOW’ which helped connect all of NSF’s employees worldwide, regardless of location or time zone, to provide a platform for positive recognition and engagement. In addition, NSF incorporated their seven values as the recognition categories, ensuring that they were reinforced on a daily basis. Further, even in their performance rating mechanism, rating officials were encouraged to consider all relevant indicators of levels of performance, to include relationships between organizational success and individual employee performance, and between employee conduct and employee performance. Needless to say, the programme has been a huge success.

In conclusion, if you want your employees to do their best because they are passionate about your company and its mission and not just because you are giving them a financial incentive to do so, it is important to send out a message saying that you care about what they are doing, and you want to thank them for their efforts. A well designed employee recognition programme does exactly that.


Establishing Trust – Story from the Ramayana


A few days back, I was conducting a training session on Inter-personal Effectiveness and we got down to discussing the importance of self disclosure and feedback in building long term relationships. Of course, each of these requires something very basic – establishing trust.

Trust has been the backbone of successful communication for all eternity. Consider the Ramayana – Hanuman’s first meeting with Sita in Ashoka Vatika after she was abducted. Establishing trust with Sita was crucial for any communication to even begin. Hanuman knew that he would not be taken at face value so he had to establish his authenticity. He first started talking about Shri Ram – a subject dear to Sita. Hanuman praised Sri Ram and gave details of Lakshman to gain acceptance with Sita. Sita softened towards him and started paying attention – but she still had her doubts. He then went on to describe her abduction in detail to her – information that a rakshak would not have had. And finally he used his trump card – the ring given to him by Shri Ram.

Innumerable business lessons can be drawn from this simple episode

  1. To establish trust, discuss a subject close to the other party’s heart. Wait and watch his response. Has he become more open to sharing or listening or is he still closed?
  2. Share information and proceed the conversation only once the other party gets interested and (maybe) concerned.  You don’t want to give offence, so proceed with caution.
  3. Finally, show your best card when you have won the other party’s trust completely. Offering everything right away may be viewed as interference or desperation or worse, a lie. Wait for credibility to be established.