Sticky Notes: One-on-One Time

If you want to develop leaders, teach them to make an abiding commitment to doing what the best leaders (at all levels) do best: the fundamentals.

One-on-One Time 

If you want to develop leaders, teach them to make an abiding commitment to doing what the best leaders (at all levels) do best: the fundamentals. That means consistently engaging every direct report in an ongoing, high-structure, high-substance, one-on-one dialogue.

High Structure

  • Set aside an hour a day to manage each person. Concentrate on three or four people a day. Follow a regular schedule and customized agenda for each.
  • Always start with top priorities, open questions, and any work in progress. Prepare in advance.
  • Consider holding meetings standing up to keep them quick and focused.
  • Don’t let anybody go more than two weeks without a meeting.
  • Don’t do all the talking.
  • If you manage people working other shifts, stay late or come in early. Conduct remote one-on-ones via telephone with the same discipline as your in-person ones.

High Substance

  • Rich in immediately relevant content, specific to the person and the situation, with a clear execution focus.
  • Always spell out expectations.
  • Regularly remind everybody of broad performance standards.
  • Turn best practices into standard operating procedures; teach them to all.
  • Use plans and step-by-step checklists.
  • Focus on concrete actions within the individual employee’s control.
  • Monitor, measure, and document individual performance in writing.
  • Follow up and provide regular, candid, coaching-style feedback.
  • Follow through with real consequences and rewards based on performance in relation to expectations.
  • Ask questions such as: “What do you need from me?” “What is your plan? What steps will you follow?” “How long will this step take? And the next?”
  • Listen carefully.
Bruce Tulgan is a best-selling author and CEO of RainmakerThinking, the management research, consulting, and training firm he founded in 1993. All of his work is based on 27 years of intensive workplace interviews and has been featured in thousands of news stories around the world. His newest book, “The Art of Being Indispensable at Work: Win Influence, Beat Overcommitment, and Get the Right Things Done”( Harvard Business Review Press) is available for purchase from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all major booksellers. Follow Tulgan on Twitter @BruceTulgan or visit his Website at: rainmakerthinking.com.