The Power of One-On-One’s


Some managers view regular (weekly, biweekly or monthly) one-on-one meetings with the same lens as they see quarterly income tax filings.  But one-one-one’s have a powerful impact on employee productivity and morale.

A manager who effectively practiced one-on-ones said, “My purpose was to listen, learn and coach.  I’d schedule about twenty minutes every two weeks with each of my eight reports.”

“Did you have an agenda?” I asked.

“Not an agenda but my meetings did have a routine.  I’d start with, ‘Update me on what you are working on or struggling with,’ and I listened more than I talked.”

The manager further explained, “I asked employees for key metrics on what had been completed and the status of ongoing efforts.  I almost always found something that I could appreciate.”

“I used our departmental objectives to prioritize employees’ efforts.  If I thought an employee was spending too much time on a low priority, I explained how changing the focus could better serve our mission.  My team wanted to succeed and I wanted to help.”

An employee who had experience with one-on-one’s reported, “They were great.  I looked forward to them.  I always knew what was expected and I believed my manager was there to help many any way he could.”

How to Get Employees to Come to Work


“How do you get employees to come to work?” a manager asked.

“Do you have an attendance policy?” I asked.

“Yes, but it’s pretty lax.  There is a lot of discretion.”

“Do you talk to employees who are late or miss work?”

“Yes, but they don’t seem to care too much.  It is pretty easy for them to get another job.”

When asked by a large company to help with attendance, I visited the management team and requested attendance records by department.  As I expected, there was quite a bit of variation among departments.  So I approached the manager who had the best record and asked him what he did.  Here is what I found.

One, the manager pleasantly greeted each employee arriving at work.  At the end of the shift, the manager said to employees as they were leaving such things as, “Good afternoon.” ”See you tomorrow.” “Enjoy your youngster’s soccer game.” “I think you hit a good lick today.”

Two, each week, the manager posted a chart showing the company and the department attendance record.  During meetings, he frequently expressed his appreciation for their commitment.

Three, if an employee missed or came in late; the manager asked, “Is everything OK?  We were concerned about you.”

How to Get Good Information from References


“Given the information on his job application and his performance during interviews, you would have thought he could leap tall buildings in a single bound,” a manager said about a recent hire.  “I called his references.  All parties reinforced our assessment.”

Three months into the job, the employee’s good spirits morphed into mood swings.  Bad habits sprung up like weeds after a spring rain.  Whining seemed to be in his DNA.

To get better information from references, you have to dig deeper and go beyond the candidate’s hand-picked supporters.  Say to the applicant, “When I call your references, I will ask each of them for two or three other names of people who knew you.  You don’t mind if I do that do you?”

Most candidates will say, “Sure, go ahead.”  But if a candidate hesitates to give permission, a serious red flag emerges in my mind.

With cooperative applicants, I have nine to twelve potential references, most of which have not been screened.  Although it is tedious and time consuming, information from second-tier references is much more revealing.

Getting the right people on the bus is critical and reference checking is no place to take short cuts.

 

How About A Different Kind of Resolution?


More than fifty percent of us make resolutions for the New Year, usually to lose weight, exercise more, or eat better.

News Flash!  Only about one in ten of us keep our commitments for more than a few months; most engage in serious backsliding before the groundhog looks for its shadow.   While these are better odds than winning the lottery, they are still pretty dismal.

I remember one resolution I kept.  I resolved to give up drinking sodas.  For more than a year, not one sugary soda entered my esophagus.  Confession—as sodas were not part of my routine anyway, maybe my success was too easy a layup.

I have a suggestion for improving our woeful success rates.  Research tells us that we have a better chance of improving our strengths than correcting our weaknesses.  Think –Shaquille O’Neal’s failure to improve his free-throw shooting.

This year, pick out something that you do well, for example:  I am organized, I am respectful of my colleagues, I communicate openly, I meet deadlines, I am good with metrics—you get the idea.

Pick a couple or three and enter them into your electronic calendar.  Put them on the first working day of each month.  As each month emerges, score yourself: A = nailed it; B = got it, mostly; C= oops, I’ll try harder next month.  I predict you will end the year with an A average.

And if you wish to lose weight, you can but that on your list also.

 

 

More Structure or More Freedom?


“I believe in empowering my employees,” a manager said to me.

“What do you mean by ‘empowering’?”

“They know what we need to do.  I let them to do their thing. If they have questions, they know how to contact me.”

Another manager, taking a different approach, remarked, “I like to tell my team how I want tasks performed.  I use checklists, status reports, and deadlines as tools.”

“Do your people complain about micromanagement?”

“Not really, if they have suggestions they tell me and I listen.  I think they like to know what I expect.”

Recent management trends are clearly in the direction of the empowering, employee-freedom model.  Some companies even allow employees time to work on items of interest outside of their job responsibilities.

However, seventy-three percent of my workshop participants say that their organizations would benefit from more—not less—structure.  Suggestions for increasing structure include:  performance tracking, standardized processes and consistent application of policies.

High-performing employees tell me they like managers who tell them how they want things done and also listen to their suggestions for doing things differently.  Perhaps the key is to be both clear about what you want and open to employees’ ideas.

 

 

Employee Retention: Promotion versus Respect


“With such a strong economy, it is getting harder for us to retain our good employees,” a manager said to me.  “It’s especially hard to keep younger talent.”

“What are you doing?” I asked.

“We are developing promotional paths for the people that we really want to keep.  We also try to keep our wages competitive.”

“Have you looked at your front-line managers?”

“What do you mean?”

“How do they relate to employees?  Do your managers treat employees respectfully?  Take a personal interest in them?  Seek their suggestions occasionally?  Show their appreciation?”

About two-thirds of the participants in our management workshops, when given a choice, say that opportunities for promotion are more important than employee-manager relationships.

However, research clearly tells us that the number one reason good employees quit is because they did not respect their managers.  It is true that many employees do get a pay increase when joining another company.

But as an employee said, “I did increase my pay but I just got fed up with my supervisor.  You could never please him and he had his favorites.”

Managers who develop professional relationships with their employees have much better retention records.