How to deliver a killer 121

If you manage people you should be having regular 121’s with them. End of. Full stop. No debate. I won’t be shifted on this matter!

What 121s aren’t are project review meetings – they should not be about status updates on projects and tasks. There are plenty of other places to talk about those things. The 121 meeting is all about the team member; their needs, their frustrations, their feedback, their ideas, and career growth are the topics of discussion.

I cannot emphasise enough how terribly important these regular sessions with your people are. Yes, I concede, counting preparation time, one-on-ones can take up a significant part of your busy schedule. But I promise you, that those hours will be well spent and justified and save you £££ in the long run. Guides honour, did dib, dob dob and all that….
If you aren’t having one-on-ones with your team, you’re missing out. One-to-ones are crucial when it comes to effectively managing your people. They are a vehicle for timely and honest feedback and an incredible motivating, problem solving, pressure relieving opportunity to help and grow your team.

So, given that we’ve agreed that the 121 is a necessity not a nice to have, here are my top 5 tips for establishing and delivering your own killer 121s.

1. Be prepared, and have a structure
Of course all meetings are different, and you need to work with a style that works for you, but if you can find a structure and manage to it, you’ll find that the conversations will naturally fit into those expectations – it will also benefit the staff member who knows what to expect and how to prepare. Following all of the above, a good structure for a 45-minute, weekly one-on-one meeting is:
• 15 Minutes: What your direct report needs to raise with you
• 15 Minutes: What you need to raise with your direct report
• 10 Minutes: Free time to air any concerns, progress toward development goals, etc.
• 5 Minutes: Agree actions and accountabilities and make a plan for follow up

If you set a good structure and keep to it you will be able to request that tracking documents are updated in advance of your meetings and reports on action items are sent in advance for you to review quickly.” That way the meeting can be spent resolving problems in the workplace, instead of just getting up to speed. This is a double win – and already you’re getting some of my promised productivity £££ savings here!

2. Have a schedule and stick to it.
Catching up ad hoc is a nice idea in principle, but it isn’t reliable, and it doesn’t bestow value or importance – I would advise against it. Stick to a committed schedule and both parties will better prepare and take the meeting more seriously. This is often the prime time for work to be discussed and advanced, so this time on the front end saves you dearly on the back end. More ££££ savings!

3. Share airtime
Structure your meetings so it’s partly about what you need to discuss, and also about what your direct report needs to raise. It shouldn’t be just a one-way conversation – and in fact, I would argue that a manager should be aiming to speak for as little as 25% of the time. This is your time to listen and hear your employee speak. Let them speak first, before moving onto your own list. I like that Google’s former CEO Eric Schmidt used to start his one-on-ones by comparing his lists with the ones prepared by his employees. They then prioritised the items found on both lists because they were likely to be the most pressing issues

4. Be present
It’s natural that other work may come up that causes you to reschedule, but beware. I can’t count the number of complaints I’ve heard from employees that their managers never stick to their one-on-ones — sending the message that the employee is the least valued items on their agenda. So stick with the meetings and have cancellations be the exception; unresolved employee performance issues won’t just go away. While you are ignoring your team to put the finishing touches on your whizz-bangy power-point, disaster might be looming.
A cancelled conversation with an employee to provide feedback can
• lead to a flooded inbox, which is costly on time (more ££££)
• lead to employees lingering outside your door, ambushing you on the way to the loo and generally distracting you from focusing on your other objectives (again, more £££s)

Giving someone our full, uninterrupted presence is a gift that makes a big impact. The one-on-one meeting is a perfect time to practice being present and free from distraction. It’s not easy, but if you have scheduled the meeting and prepared for it then you have come along way down the track already – don’t fall at the final furlong! Come to the meeting focused and committed –keep off your phone and email and close your door. Show intention and respect; you will really take in what they are saying and use everybody’s time wisely and productively (yes, you guessed it, more ££££££s!)

5. Manage accountabilities.
As with any good meeting, wrap up your 121 with accountabilities and next steps. Document it, or else it probably will get forgotten, and follow up at the next 121.

I promise that if you give this approach a go, you won’t look back – but I get it – it may be a bit daunting to get started with. Never fear, I am always here. Why not drop me a line or give me a call and arrange for me to pop in and help you and your business get a great 121 process in place that works for your business you started. It will really be as easy as one -two one -three