Regular one on one conversations with your team members are essential for building trust, reviewing priorities, discovering roadblocks and most importantly finding out how your people are doing.
When you take regular work stress and add the extra strain of the current pandemic, it’s crucial to stay tuned in to people’s well-being. This is especially important for your remote team members as you cannot rely on the casual face to face conversations that happen in a shared office.
It’s also helpful to remember that each of your team members will be working through their own individual circumstances. For some the challenge may be how to ‘turn off’ while working from home whereas others may be having a hard time being productive because of all the other commitments they are trying to balance. Regular check-ins allow you to understand their unique challenges so you can support your team members’ work needs in ways that are most valuable them.
Here are some things you can do to ensure you lead effective 1 to 1s.
Prepare yourself. Having an empathetic, sensitive conversation doesn’t come naturally to everyone, especially over video. That’s why it’s useful to check in with yourself before checking in with one of your team members. Make sure you are in the right frame of mind to have the conversation. For example, are you able to be fully present and available to your team member and not be distracted by other things? If you are not feeling well yourself, it might be best to reschedule.
Prepare the discussion. When you are ready to have the call, make sure you are prepared to address the most pressing priorities for your team. Aside from support, the likely most critical need for you and your team members is to have a shared understanding of what to prioritise, especially if your organisation is revising its strategies in response to external changes. In addition, it will be useful for you to:
- Review your notes from your previous 1 to 1s.
- Review your own commitments – have you done what you said you would?
- Prepare topics for discussion.
- Know what business updates or changes to direction you wish to communicate.
- Speak to your team member beforehand and encourage them to prepare – ask them to bring the topics they want to discuss, especially any support they need from you.
Prepare questions. It’s particularly important at this time to try to make sure that you talk less and listen more. Commit to asking questions. To help prepare a list of questions. You can ask:
- How are you doing? How are your family?
- How is remote work going? What are your biggest challenges/concerns?
- How are you doing with maintaining boundaries between work and home responsibilities?
- Do you need any additional flexibility related to your working hours (e.g. when you work or how long you work)?
- What are the most important things for you to spend your time on right now? What can be pushed back, transferred to another teammate or removed?
- What do you need from me?
- How are you managing to stay connected to your colleagues?
- Is there anything that I can do to make sure that you continue learning and developing, even though we’re all working remotely?
- What support or resources do you need to help you be successful during this time?
Be present during your 1 to 1s. Make sure that both of you use your cameras. In this way you will be able to get a sense of how your team member is doing. Try to avoid distractions. While some distractions may be unavoidable (particularly if there are young children at home!), make sure you avoid the ones you can by turning off your phone, closing down all notifications etc.
Use visuals. Share your screen when appropriate to help people understand exactly where they can access key information and resources that will help support their well-being.
Be explicit. Be clear about your expectations, but also seek to understand what expectations others have of you.
Be prepared to show your own vulnerability. Don’t be afraid to talk a bit about your own struggles too. Sharing your own vulnerabilities will help to build trust as well as demonstrate that you are human just the same as everyone else. It’s also helpful to be a role model for setting boundaries and fighting stress, so share what you do to take breaks and recharge.
Follow up after your meeting. As best you can, make sure you and your team member leave the conversation with a clear idea of next steps. That might mean noting any priorities that need to shift, any additional flexibility that’s needed, or an adjustment to the frequency for your 1 to 1’s. To avoid doubt, confirm the key agreements and actions in writing. One other point here is that it’s valuable to identify at least one action you can take before your next conversation. This will demonstrate that you have heard your team member and you are prepared to act on their words. You must of course honour the commitments you make otherwise you risk undermining your credibility with them.
Your 1 to 1 conversations are key to helping you understand how best to support your team members’ work, productivity, growth and success. While this is more difficult when your team members work remotely, it is not impossible and these tips will help you to help them be successful.
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