By Rob Marchalonis.

Multiply your engagement by dividing your audience.  Regular one-to-one meetings can be an effective and efficient way to engage with your employees, and others. During these more personal connections, you have the opportunity for more meaningful communication, relationship building, and understanding of mutual wants, needs, and expectations. Select a meeting frequency that allows for optimal connection and communication based on individual circumstances. For many employees, a good frequency is somewhere between weekly and monthly.

Be mindful of the setting.  Have one-to-ones in a comfortable environment—likely not the boss’s office—that allows for a private conversation but in a public space such as a conference or meeting room. Mix it up. Think about an occasional walk in a public park or sharing a meal, if appropriate.

Ask more, tell less.  Keep your conversations mostly one-sided, in favor of the other person!  Being prepared with smart questions is a simple way to do this.  Consider these:

  • “Good to see you! How is your week going?”
  • “Help me understand, where are you spending your time these days?”
  • “Could you list your top activities, and what percent of your week you spend on each?”
  • “What’s working, that we should continue?”
  • “What’s not working, that we should stop?”
  • “What opportunities for improvement do you see?”
  • “What challenges are holding you back?”
  • “What’s not getting done?”
  • “What do you need to learn?”
  • “What’s the best way for you to learn it?”
  • “Who can help you with that?”
  • “How can I help you?”

Be patient.  It’s good to be deliberate about your intentions and questions during one-to-one conversations, but don’t try to cover too much too quickly.  Remember, you’re trying to build understanding and relationships with others, not interrogate them.  You may want to cover the questions above in comfortable conversations over two to four meetings, each lasting from twenty to forty minutes.  To get more thoughtful answers, you may want to ask the other person to, “Think about how you would answer that, so we can discuss next time.”  Similarly, you may want to ask the same question again, a meeting or two later, after some time for consideration. “Now that you’ve had time to think about this question, how would you answer it?”

As your meetings continue and one-to-one relationships develop, you can evolve your discussions to more detailed questions, problem-solving, innovation, and accountability. Perhaps with questions such as these:

  • “Remind me, what are your top objectives?”
  • “What are your goals?”
  • “What specific results are you experiencing?”
  • “How are you keeping track of that?”
  • “What data can you show me to support that statement?”
  • “Who or what will be affected by that decision?”
  • “What are the risks if we do what you suggest?”
  • “Who have you sought advice from about that?”
  • “If you achieved your goal, what would that look like for you?”
  • “What is getting in the way of that happening?”
  • “What do you recommend?”
  • “What’s the next step?”
  • “Are you willing to lead that effort?”
  • “How should we celebrate that accomplishment?”
  • “What do you want or need from me?”

One-to-ones vs. annual performance reviews.  One benefit I personally enjoyed by having regular one-to-one meetings was the ability to eliminate annual performance reviews. In place of these awkward, and often ineffective, annual events, I found that regular one-to-one meetings allowed for a better understanding of the organization’s goals and objectives, each other’s roles and responsibilities, and how together we were performing.

Why wait?  How often, and how well, are you communicating with your employees? Boost their performance with regular meetings and a few good questions, one person at a time.

Rob Marchalonis is the founder of LSP123 LLC and author of IncentShare: Motivate, Recruit, and Get Results with Incentives, now available at Amazon. Connect with him at LSP123.com or www.IncentShare.com