Great Managers Are Always Nice by Chip Averwater

Chapter 11

Coaching One-on-One

All employees want to know how they’re doing—and every manager needs to ensure they do. Not just in general or overall, but in detail, for each aspect of the job, each skill, and each opportunity for improvement. Not sharing that information deprives the employees, the team, and the organization of their potential improvements.

One-on-one private meetings are a manager’s opportunity to talk candidly with team members about their work, encourage their efforts, recognize their achievements, suggest improvements, and offer help.

One-on-ones work best on a regular schedule. Quarterly is a good minimum but more frequently is often appropriate. A manager might choose to meet with a new employee daily, a team member having trouble once or twice a week, and a reliable long-termer only quarterly.

An office is an ideal space for the meeting, but almost any private area can work—the team member’s desk if private, a table in the corner, a conference room, a patio, etc. Sometimes ambient noise in a cafeteria or otherwise busy spot provides enough privacy.

One-on-One Meeting

M:  Jackie, when you get a minute can you have a cup of coffee with me?

J:   OK, I should be free in a few minutes.

Although Mike makes a point to meet with each of his team members at least once every 90 days, he doesn’t schedule the meetings formally; he believes that creates anxiety and raises defenses. Instead he approaches his one-on-ones as casual conversations.

Other managers do schedule formal meetings and often ask their team members to bring reports, summarize the previous period, review progress on goals, and prepare a plan for the next period. That process is often suitable for managing managers.

A meeting with the manager is frightening for many employees; getting them to relax and speak freely is challenging. ... 

Great Managers Are Always Nice