5 warning signs your employee one-on-ones aren’t working

5 warning signs your employee one-on-ones aren’t working

Meagan Palatino
May 6, 2016

We have been discussing the importance of employee one-on-ones, especially for newly formed and growing teams. Establishing a consistent rhythm and measuring their effectiveness can be challenging. If you manage teams, and you’re holding meetings with your direct reports, look out for these 5 warning signs that your one-on-ones are broken.

1. You do all of the talking

Start to become aware of who does more of the talking during a one-on-one session. If you find yourself speaking more than 50% of the time, then there is room for improvement. Ideally you reach a point where you set the structure of the meeting, but your employee does the majority of the talking so you can simply listen. If your employee is able to speak freely, or comes with an agenda, this is a great indicator that you have cultivated a trusting relationship.

2. The same issues and concerns arise week-to-week

Review your notes from your one-on-ones and ask yourself, “are we talking about the same issues over time?”. If the answer is yes, we recommend re-thinking how you conduct employee 1:1’s. Take the time to analyze which themes repeat, and why this might be the case. Ask yourself if you are effectively removing roadblocks, and resolving situations of conflict immediately for your team. Perhaps you are, but your employee isn’t responding well to your approach, which merits an honest conversation about why. Don’t let issues go unaddressed.

3. Growth stagnates

As a manager, you are responsible for developing growth paths for your team, and for measuring that growth. If people on your team are performing below their potential, shying away from challenges, or generally feeling frustrated then chances are growth has stagnated. It may mean that you are not giving them the support they need and that you should refocus your one-on-ones on real-time professional development. Remember, even highly intelligent self-driven employees need direction and encouragement, aiming higher when they respect and trust their manager.

4. Your team isn’t showing up

Absence from work is a strong indicator that things are not going well. Unless your employee has a known personal condition, most motivated and engaged employees show up each day, ready to work. Review your team’s absences and notice if there are any hidden trends. It is your job to quickly uncover any underlying issues that may be preventing your team from wanting to be there.

5. Work isn’t getting done

Is your team delivering? Are they meeting deadlines, releasing product, closing deals, etc? If you are observing productivity issues that haven’t been addressed in your one-on-ones, start addressing them. Performance and team output increase with communication, clarity, trust and accountability.

Don’t let these warning signs go unaddressed in your one-on-ones. Employee one-on-one discussions should deliver real-time professional development. They also emphasize your interest and commitment to the team. If you find yourself struggling, try focusing first on mitigating these red flags. Talk freely with your team about what you are noticing, and ask them if they feel the same way. Then, reset your one-on-one style and try again.

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