In the digital age, our workplace relationships have become virtual to some extent. That’s a challenge, especially for managers and employees. According to author of ‘How to Invest Your Time Like Money’, Elizabeth Grace Saunders, “In person one-on-ones are the most important productivity tools you have as a manager. They are where you can ask strategic questions such as, are we focused on the right things? And from a rapport point of view, they are how you show employees that you value them.”

Keeping this dual purpose in mind, and the fact that in person one-on-one time is more precious than ever before, what can we do to make each such session impactful?

  1. Channel gratitude and positivity into your conversation. Research by organization leadership professor, Joyce E Bono says, positive experiences — even small ones — provide you with valuable resources that can be used to reduce stress, including physical symptoms such as headaches or muscle tension. Since evolutionarily our minds are attuned more towards the negative, consciously focusing on the positive helps change the work culture.
  1. Prepare well, while leaving room for spontaneity. Before the meeting, take some time to co-create a brief agenda, with your team-mate. What all would you like to discuss? You can have themes like frustrations, wins, strategies for each month, and needs. Also reflect upon what would success look like, at the end of the discussion? Saunders suggests doing some time-boxing to prioritize. But also create some breathing space, in case you feel like you’ve packed too much. And be ready to problem solve. You are there to learn about their professional challenges. Offer solutions too.
  2. Practice complete presence. When it’s time for the one-on-one, shift gears and get out of autopilot. Don’t think of the meeting as just another item on your to-do list; instead, consider it as an intentional moment for connection. Think, ‘I’m here to build an effective work relationship, and help my colleague succeed at his/ her work’. Devote your full attention, and avoid computers/ phone pings. In such spaces, technological distraction can send a message of disregard.
  1. Tune into their larger career/ life plans. Maybe not for every meeting. But, your employees are whole individuals with their personal lives impacting their professional ones, and vice versa. However, these questions require reflection and thought. So give your team members a heads-up, and use the meeting to understand how to support them, such that they can meet their professional and personal goals with ease.

Managing people is largely a practice of displaying care, concern, and thoughtfulness, while consistently leading them towards organizational goals. The best way to make both happen – conversations where you can connect with people and build stronger relationships.

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