You Bring the Agenda

Who sets the agenda for your regular one-on-one meetings, the leader or the team member? I very much believe it should be the team member; by extension, part of the leader’s job then is to be fiercely protective of that time and its purpose.

I approach one-on-ones as an opportunity for the leader to listen, ask questions, and continue to build the relationship with the team member. Taking this approach allows the team member to explore and talk through what matters most to them (which may come as a complete surprise to the leader). I bristle when I hear about or experience leaders who use one-on-ones to download the latest work priorities, gather updates they’re interested in, and rush away – the whole rest of the day is for those types of meetings! I’m not saying work won’t come up, just that it shouldn’t be what takes precedence.

When I tell someone that they set the agenda, that can create some uncertainty and the reflex to talk about work kicks on. To avoid the reflex, I find it helpful to include these questions in a meeting invite as thought starters:

  • What accomplishment do you want to celebrate and what makes it important for you?
  • What learning or opportunity to improve do you want to talk about?
  • What challenge are you facing that you want to debrief or coach through?
  • How are you feeling about your role, career, and development?
  • What feedback do you have for me?
  • How are you feeling in general? Physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Try this in your next one-on-one. It may feel a bit awkward at first but I promise you will begin to have more meaningful conversations with your direct reports (or your leader if you’re the one who’s taking the initiative). Through those conversations you’ll discover more about the people you work with, develop deeper relationships and trust, and support people’s desire to be seen, valued, and heard.

Image credit: Luisella Planeta Leoni

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