One of the most important People Management tools is the regular one-to-one performance discussion. As with most things in life, being effective at performance One-to-ones requires planning, structuring and building effective habits. This article provides a concise ‘how to’ guide to holding effective one-to-one performance meetings to coach, improve and motivate your Team Members.

Managing the performance of each of their Team Members is one of the main accountabilities of the Manager. The goal is that each Team Member will achieve the desired performance and will continually improve and develop. The People Management process to achieve this is the regular one-to-one performance management meeting. This is not the annual review, where goals are set for the next six months or year. This is the regular one-to-one meeting held every week or two weeks, where the Manager and the Report work on current performance, set short term goals and establish learning points from day-to-day experience.

The Objectives of the One-to-one
The Performance one-to-one is a 15-20 minute meeting with the Team Member, held on a regular basis. The objective is to use this session to keep each person moving forward – developing, improving and motivated to achieve. It is private one-to-one time where the staff member gets the undivided attention of the Manager, and where his or her working life is top of the agenda.

The format can vary from session to session, but the overall aim is that every one-to-one is productive and will take the Team Member forward. The most basic session is a straightforward review of the past week. How did things go? What was the level of performance? What worked well? What didn’t work? What are the learning points for the future? What is the specific goal for the next week? This is productive if a good learning point is identified and /or a specific goal is set for the next period.
This is the time to identify strengths to praise, or to get the Report to look at ways they could do things better.

The Nature of the Performance One-to-one
To be effective, a one-to-one is a 2 way conversation. It is not a monologue by the Manager – a frequent mistake! Neither is it taken over by the Team Member. It is a structured conversation where the Manager guides the Team Member to review their performance and identify next steps. The role of the Manager is to get the Team Member to think constructively, and then to validate their thinking with positive feedback or guide them in a different direction with corrective feedback.

Equally, if a goal is set, say to improve their positive customer focus, the Manager guides the Team Member to work out HOW they are going to achieve this, and how they will MOTIVATE themselves to improve.

A Team Member is much more likely to achieve a goal or improvement, if they think of the goal themselves and if they work out a strategy for success.

Planning the One-to-one
Take a little time to plan each one-to-one. Keep a page of notes on each Team Member so that you can keep track of performance, goals set etc. Review these notes to remind you of the current situation with this Team Member when planning. It is also useful to create a matrix of all the qualities and competencies of the ‘ideal Team Member’, so that you have clarity on what it is you are building. You can use matrix as a guideline to identify ‘next steps’ to work on with each Team Member.
Plan what you want to achieve in this next one-to-one session, and what outcome you would like at the end of the session. Identifying very clear outcomes will help your thinking and ensure the session is productive. However, be flexible enough so that you can maximise on a better learning opportunity that might arise in the session.

Structuring the Performance Session
The greatest problem with these sessions is that they become Manager monologues. How many of us have sat through long, irrelevant rambles by our Managers, wasting our precious time?

Begin each session by outlining your objectives today, what you would like both of you to achieve. That way, you will both be more likely to stay on track. The next stage is for you to stop talking, and engage the Team Member in the conversation. An open, but focussed, question is important here, so prepare this before you go in. ‘I would like us to review the issues of last Friday, to get good learning points for the future. Can you take me through your understanding of the situation?’
It is important that the Manager really hears what the Team Member says at this point, and sends encouraging listening messages.

The next step is to use effective questioning to get the Team Member to review their actions, giving positive, reinforcing feedback where appropriate. What could they have done differently? What would have been the result in that case? These are the key questions that will lead to learning points and future goals.

From this comes a clear goal, or focus area for the next time period. This should be written down so that both are clear on what exactly this is. Summarise agreements at the end of the meeting.

Frequent sessions like this will ensure a motivated, focussed and high performing Team Member. It will also mean that the Annual Review is a much easier and more pleasant experience.

Author's Bio: 

Kate Tammemagi is a People Management Trainer and Consultant. She has extensive experience in designing customized People Management Courses and Performance Management Courses