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10 Steps to Inclusive 1:1 Meetings

Creating an inclusive culture begins with you. Leaders who consistently exhibit inclusive leadership behavior can develop high performing teams that achieve their goals and objectives while enjoying a meaningful connection to one another. As a leader one of the most valuable tools you can employ is the 1:1 meeting with your employees. This is where you can build a deeper connection with each person, helping to motivate and inspire them, leading them to achieve higher levels of performance, be more willing to take risks, and to innovative with greater creativity.

One-on-one meetings provide a unique opportunity to get to know your direct reports on a deeper level, learning about their personal goals and aspirations, challenges they might face, and skills that could surprise you. It is also an effective way to help some overcome a feeling of “onliness” as discussed in last month’s blog.

Here are 10 steps to follow for Inclusive 1:1 Meetings:

  1. Get it on the calendar, ensuring the 1:1 is a recurring event. This demonstrates your commitment to the individual. When schedule conflicts arise, ask to reschedule.
  2. Be on time. Being on time sends the message that the person you are meeting with matters and that you want to hear what they have to say.
  3. Change the conversation and setting occasionally. Leaders who show an interest in their direct reports’ personal life and goals outside of work can create those deeper connections. Post-COVID, get out of the office and meet over coffee or lunch or take a walk together. This method to change things up and be less formal helps both of you relax and to be more comfortable sharing information.
  4. Allow your employee to set the agenda. You may have a couple of items to share but this is their meeting, and their agenda should be paramount. Try to avoid status updates that can be accomplished through other means, and encourage them to arrive with a prepared agenda, ideally sent to you beforehand.
  5. Celebrate Wins! Ask the employee how they prefer to receive positive feedback. Not everyone enjoys public recognition, and so the 1:1 is an ideal time to let them know you value and admire their achievements. And for those who enjoy public praise, there’s no crime in doubling up and thanking them privately and publicly.
  6. Demonstrate vulnerability to build trust. You can do this by asking for feedback on your performance. Don’t defend your behavior or justify any action, just listen and seek to understand. How am I performing for you as your manager? Are you getting what you need? If there’s one thing I could change about my behavior or leadership what would that be? Feedback is a gift, so when the employee shares, be sure to thank them.
  7. Focus on your employee’s strengths. Acknowledge their unique talents and abilities. This can be especially impactful when doling out a new assignment – let them know you see the gifts they bring to work every day and why you believe they can execute this new task well. This is a great opportunity to engage your employee and let them know that you continue to appreciate and value their work.
  8. Ask precise questions. This communicates to your employee that you are engaged and listening. Take notes on your action items or follow up commitments, it’s a great way to let them know what they are saying is valuable.
  9. Inform your employees on changes that will impact them directly. If there are plans being discussed, gain their perspective. This is effective to let people know that their opinion matters and an excellent opportunity to implement #8 above.

  10. Ask how you can help them. Ask where they need you to be involved. This may include attending a meeting, sending an email, giving them more independence, connecting them with someone in your professional network, or escalating an issue when needed.

Keep in mind the need to style-switch if working within a multicultural environment. For example, if working with an employee who *may* operate from a more “indirect” and/or “hierarchical” cultural lens, some of these may prove challenging particularly numbers #4 and #10. To learn more about developing your cultural competency, reach out directly.

Give these 10 steps a try and observe how your employees respond over time. If you enjoyed this blog, please consider sharing with your professional network on LinkedIn, your colleagues at work, and following Global Diversity Partners here.

Copyright © 2021 Jonathan Stutz