How to Lead Better One-on-one Meetings


Of all of the tensions you will face as a leader, the tension you will have the most self-doubt and inner turmoil over is the tension around the people you lead. 

I am talking about Team Tensions!

Ever felt those? 

Thought so. So have I!

While I can’t give you the entire system for building a killer team without killing yourself or your team, I can give you one simple step towards what I call “fostering togetherness” on your team. 

In fact, a couple of years ago when the NBA relaunched in the bubble to complete their season during the pandemic, Phil Jackson made the statement, “The team that emerges from the COVID-19 NBA bubble as winners will be the team that has the strongest sense of ‘togetherness.’”

Togetherness is the competitive advantage of effective teams in today’s culture; the ability to foster it is the superpower of today’s most effective leaders.

Here’s your simple step:

Schedule Strategic One-on-One Meetings with everyone who directly reports to you.

Are you already having these meetings? Great! This article will help you get better at them by giving you a simple system.

Are you not having these meetings? You should be! Don’t beat yourself up, just make the adjustment and add them to your calendar.

(Do you have too many people reporting to you? We would love to coach you through that, but you can start the process toward narrowing that focus in our free teams course.)

Let me give you a simple focus and formula to get you started having deeply impactful one-on-one meetings with your team.

First, when meeting with the individuals on your team, be sure to…

Build People Rather Than Institutions.

Maximize the potential of people and team around you. Not programs, productions, problems, processes…people

This meeting is the time to get to know them personally. Ask about their family, their hobbies, their dreams. Share about your family, what you did over the weekend, the things you dream of. 

Humanize this meeting and your team will begin to approach you with more trust and honesty

Next, during your meeting…

Create a Simple, Predictable Agenda.

What is happening to predictability on intensely competitive, rapidly changing teams (especially in a virtual environment)? It is being destroyed. 

The practices that leaders are adopting to make their teams more competitive often ignore the human need for predictability. 

Many leaders I coach are frustrated by this, but the truth is, unpredictable meetings lead to erratic results and eroded trust.

Every one-on-one meeting should include space for asking good questions, listening, getting updates on projects, coaching and accountability.

Here is a short list of 4 good questions to ask in every one-on-one meeting with your team:

1. What’s working?

If your team is filled with high capacity leaders, they naturally focus on what needs to be fixed. Force them to start by identifying where they’re winning. Celebrate with them and celebrate them. 

Hearing what’s working also gives you perspective. You learn what your team thinks is most important, which helps you coach or be in the mind of your team. You also learn of what could be potential competitive advantages for your organization.

2. What are you challenged with?

Word this question right. Don’t ask what isn’t working. Ask what is challenging them personally. This opens you up to more honesty and for them to share more from their personal lives. When trust is high you should hear about work challenges and private challenges organically in the same conversation.

3. What do you need from me?

Availing yourself to serve your team is more than just symbolic leadership. Leaning into one issue someone on your team is having for just a few minutes can possibly fix a problem they have spent hours on, not to mention the value you add to them simply by be present in their problem.

4. How can I pray for you?

I am a spiritual person. That means I am a spiritual leader. You may not be. If not, this question may not be for you. For me, I want to pray with my team. In some instances, we pray on the spot. In the right setting, this is a valuable tool to help those on your team be valued at the highest level as human beings.

One of our coaches would love to walk you and your team through our process of building healthy one-on-one meetings, but first, let’s start by discovering how coaching could best serve you and your team on a Strategy Call. Schedule a call today!



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