A successful business is predicated upon good relationships. Good relationships are contingent upon effective communication. And in the paramount relationship in any company—that between manager and employee—there is no more important form of communication than one-on-one.
But how often do managers have focused, purposeful and structured discussions with individual staff members? Exactly. That’s why the formal, regularly scheduled one-on-one meeting is so valuable.
Mark Horstman and Michael Auzenne call one-on-one meetings “the one common thread of all exceptional managers.” The American management consultants and hosts of the hyper-popular Manager Tools podcast spell out the benefits of one-on-ones—or “O3s”—in their 2005 book, One-on-Ones: The Single Most Effective Management Tool.
For a manager, one-on-ones force her to carve out a dedicated block of time—it depends on the size of the staff, but an hour is usually the maximum—in which she can focus her attention exclusively on the needs, expectations and goals associated with that employee.
For the employee, it’s an opportunity to have the boss’s undivided attention for more than a minute or two in the hallway to give a progress report, get clear on expectations and objectives, hear performance feedback or even lodge a complaint. It is also an opportunity for both parties to grow their personal relationship.
For most businesses, one-on-ones work best at weekly frequency. Many managers scoff at the idea of dedicating an additional hour or half-hour per week to meeting with each and every one of their direct reports. Yet, most managers spend at least that much time in unstructured, ad hoc conversations with their staff. Horstman, Auzenne and Grail Noble will tell you that O3s pay principal and interest on the time invested.
Noble, president of Toronto-based event management outfit Yellow House Events, believes O3s answer a basic human need to be acknowledged. “You can’t build loyalty among employees if you’re not getting face to face on a regular basis,” says Noble, whose firm ranks among the fastest-growing in Canada. “I always say if you are relying only on digital communication, you are just pen pals, not friends.”