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Leaders, how often are you having scheduled one on ones with your direct reports? If you can’t answer this question or if the answer is every quarter, it’s time to rethink your leadership strategy.

You can’t make someone highly engaged, but you can provide the conditions for said engagement. It’s the whole lead a horse to water story, right? You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. It’s a cliche, but it’s true.

1 on 1s are a great space for you to support your direct reports in a productive way. So, if we all know and register how valuable 1 on 1s are, why don’t more managers hold them regularly?

We came across a great article that discusses the topic of 1 on 1s. Todd Davis writes for Entrepreneur about why 1 on 1s aren’t happening and how to hold more effective sessions with your team.

Here are a few reasons why 1 on 1s aren’t happening or how they aren’t happening correctly:

  1. The manager doesn’t know how to hold a 1 on 1– maybe they were never taught or they are nervous about that kind of session.
  2. The meeting becomes more of a quick progress check in and less of a 1 on 1 session.
  3. Time becomes a factor. If you say you don’t have enough time for a 1 on 1, you are failing your direct report(s).

Let’s go through Davis’s four tips on holding better 1 on 1s:

  • “Don’t make it about you.” This meeting is not about you. This is about THEM. This is their meeting the share and not yours to overtake. If you let them set the agenda, you are giving them the space to cover what they want. Maybe even give them a template to talk through what they are proud of recently, what they need support on, and their short/long term goals. By doing this, you show your direct reports that you care about them and that their work matters to you.
  • “Account for your energy.” No matter what you do, you need to bring your best self to these 1 on 1 sessions. If you have a meeting before you’ve had your morning coffee or at the end of the day when you’re worn out, they will feel it. Schedule your meetings when you can devot your best self and all of your attention.
  • “Don’t skimp on the chitchat.” Don’t undercut the importance of chitchat! When you connect with your team and show you care about their lives AND their work. Each direct report is more than just their work. They are people first and foremost– treat them as such.
  • “Put. Your. Phone. Away.” Like we said above, you should be bringing your best self to these 1 on 1s. It is so incredibly rude to check your phone, your watch, your laptop, etc. during a 1 on 1. This is the time to put all that stuff away and devote your attention to the person and the matter at hand. Make sure your people know they have your undivided attention and they will feel more comfortable to share.

Consistency is key! Make sure to schedule a cadence for these meetings and actually stick to them. Even when you’re slammed, you’ve got to make time for your people.