Build Team Performance
Through Individual Meetings
By Joe Takash
While having dinner with my parents at a
cozy Italian restaurant, my Dad excused himself to say hello to a
former work colleague. As he left the table, I asked my Mom, “What’s
the one thing you can tell me about Dad that I don’t know?” Her
response: “I learn something new about your father every single
day.” This was on the evening of their fortieth anniversary.
People are complex. If you’ve ever taken a
personality assessment test, you know well we all have different
propensities, values, drivers, and motivations. As managers and
leaders, how can you get the most out people in the workplace? What
are ways you create cohesiveness and trust? How can you adapt and
adjust to different people problems with dynamic solutions?
One highly controllable component is to
have individual meetings. They allow you to connect with your
employees and build a stronger team, one person at a time. If you
justify not having these because of your hectic travel schedule or
too many people reporting to you or the demanding needs of your
clients for not having time, you’re not the leader you thought you
are. If “I do have individual meetings” is your response, good for
you. But test your mettle against the steps below to see if there’s
a nugget or two that may help.
Step One: Designate time on your calendar:
As much as I’d like to say have
them at the same time every week or two, that is not always
realistic. From personal time to client crises, yes, schedules can
be challenging. However, the designation of time and commitment to
schedules can instantly build morale and loyalty simply by valuing
the development of staff and understanding their challenges and
Watch out for the backfire. Bruce is a
senior manager at a successful healthcare company. In a leadership
program my firm was conducing, he mentioned that his staff would
always bet whether or not he would make their meetings. After a
while they stopped betting because they knew the answer. Bruce’s
message and impact was clear: “Meeting with you is not a priority.
Therefore you are not a priority.”
Designating time to your staff should be
as important as a client presentation. By booking it on your
calendar regularly, you can learn, teach and mutually benefit in a
Step Two: Be mutually prepared:
To save time and increase productive
outcomes, be certain both parties have submitted their intended
discussion points and outcomes prior to individual meetings via an
email or quick discussion. This is more than just an agenda – it
involves objectives, updates, challenges, solutions, and walk-away
duties. Having both parties submit this prior to the meeting keeps
everyone in the game and allows both leader and team member to be
As the meeting begins, be sure both
parties have the agreed-upon checklist to follow so your schedule is
tight and results-focused. It also makes sense to clarify what was
exchanged at the beginning of each meeting, so you are both aligned
with a roadmap. This framing can allow for quick additions or
Step Three: Make personal connections
every few meetings: All too
often, the only issues discussed in group and individual meetings
are processes, procedures and quotas. Understandably, it is, in
fact, a business meeting. But you’re meeting with people who are
driven by personal goals, values and passions. People have a need
and a right to be asked how they are doing. Otherwise, crucial areas
for performance growth may be ignored.
Let’s say you had individual staff
meetings once a month, but once every three to four meeting, you
asked some or all of the following questions and did every check
points on their answers:
What are you motivated by?
What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing?
What can I do to help you bring your performance
results to the highest level?
What are your aspirations or goals over the next
couple of years?
Many leaders don’t ask these type of
questions because they lack awareness or view these as unnecessary,
or they make wrongful assumptions that they know the answers. But
the misalignment between what leaders believe employees want and
need, versus what they actually do, is frighteningly pervasive.
In group meetings, these questions can be
too intimate and personal. One on one, these give team member a
chance to open up, be heard and educate you on how you can lead him
or her to a performance where everyone wins.
Step Four: Document and follow up:
Many leaders are influencers and
drivers. If you’re one these, beware. You may be charming, enthused
and consensus building, but that can all be lost if you don’t keep
your word. When team members bring an idea or ask for support on
issues and you don’t follow through and get back to them on issues
discussed, you can erode trust and team dynamics.
Unfortunately, many leaders do not intend
to hurt or offend team members. They simply don’t capture, confirm
and clarify what was exchanged. (This is not to say team members are
not responsible, but this is about what you can do to be better in
leading people for results).
It is important to review and clarify what
was discussed at the end of each meeting to align accurate
understanding. Then, create joint accountabilities for follow up so
all parties know the timeline and deliverables due and on which
date. This discipline keeps positive growth in perpetual forward
motion. Key behaviors here are timely follow through and response.
Or, as we’ve all heard, “Do what you say you’re going to do, when
you say you’re going to do it.” Simple but profound.
Bonus Step: Get feedback on your
leadership: It’s funny how
annual reviews offer the boss authorization to evaluate us, but
doesn’t apply the law of reciprocity. It may be a checked box in
some HR circles, but the truth is most bosses don’t get the truth.
Individual meetings provide you an
opportunity to create a safe atmosphere, one team member at a time,
and get validated lab results on your effectiveness in management.
The pushback many leaders will voice is “employees won’t be honest
because they fear retribution.”
While some of this may be true, it depends
on how the message is delivered. For example, if I say, “John, give
me honest feedback on what I should do better,”and deliver this with
an aggressive tone, sitting two inches from him while staring at him
like psychopath, I’m unlikely to get helpful feedback.
If I speak with a friendly tone and say,
“John, I was hoping you could provide me some feedback on how I can
be a more effective team leader. However, let me first say that the
only negative that could come out of this is that I don’t improve
because you weren’t honest with me. I’d really appreciate your
suggestions.” Wouldn’t this situation be more conducive to open
The great leaders check their ego and
apply this practice a few times a year because they know that
feedback is a gift.
Individual meetings are a phenomenal
opportunity. Even if they have to occasionally be done by phone,
make time for the one on one, which can build your team in expedient
fashion. The outcomes can show up in the areas of stronger talent
management, crisp communication, confidence, loyalty, and inspired
Read other articles and learn more
[This article is available at no-cost, on a non-exclusive basis.
Contact PR/PR at 407-299-6128 for details and