What’s the single most effective way for a leader to build trust with his or her employees? It’s to show that you genuinely care about your employees’ career well-being. And one of the simplest ways to do this is to maintain consistent, non-distracted face-to-face (or video chat, or phone conversation) time with those you lead.
Frequent Check-Ins Build Employee Trust and Engagement
Now, notice I didn’t say it was the “easiest” thing to do. Finding time on your calendar (and making those appointments stick) is probably one of the most difficult things to do and that’s why managers often don’t make 1:1 meetings a priority. (More about that vexing problem later.) People value interaction more than you might think. Nearly half of the people surveyed in a poll by Training Magazine and the Ken Blanchard companies said they wished they could meet with their boss on a weekly basis.
Weekly! Does that surprise you? I’m not surprised at all – feedback is the cornerstone of a good manager-employee relationship and 1:1 meetings can provide an avenue for two-directional communication. During times of stress or uncertainty, it’s even more important to check in with employees (For example, during the pandemic, over 90% of employees wanted weekly communication from their leaders.) And there’s evidence that weekly check-ins improve employee engagement scores by 13%. So it’s imperative that you make the time for this trust-building element of your leadership role.
Shifting Your 1:1 Meeting Mindset
Let’s do a quick thinking exercise, shall we? When you are reviewing your calendar for the week, and you see that you’re overbooked (which is probably more often than you’d care to admit), you most likely look for places where you can readjust, right? It’s Time Management 101 stuff to review your priorities. Here’s a blunt question: are your 1:1 meetings with team members one of the areas where you “trim” to make room for other things?
If the answer is yes, it’s time to reflect on your mindset. Sure, there are times when that’s the right call – for example, you’re working with a high-performing employee and things are clicking along ok for them– and you haven’t canceled in a while. But if there’s a pattern of behavior that points to your canceling/rescheduling/being late to your meetings with team members, what does that say about your commitment to them as employees? Further, what does that do to the trust between the two of you? Every time you cancel or postpone (or show up frazzled, distracted or need to cut the meeting short), you are devaluing the time spent with your team member – and by extension, you’re sending the message that their time isn’t worth as much as yours.
Oh, wow. How did this post get so heavy, so quickly?
I get it. Being under pressure and overbooked can get a well-meaning leader out of balance, without you even realizing it.
So let’s take a look at ways you can recalibrate to maintain the integrity with your 1:1 meetings with team members.
To Be a More Effective Leader, Reclaim Your Time
Here are a few ideas to help you keep your commitment to meetings with your team:
- Discipline yourself to see 1:1 meetings as sacrosanct – and a key way to maintain trust. Doing so helps you stay focused on the bigger leadership picture.
- To better manage time, consider looking into time management techniques like stacking emails, time boxing or setting up a system to kick off your week.
- Learn how to say “no” without exactly saying “no” to a request.
- If your 1:1 meeting times just aren’t working out in your schedule, renegotiate the time with your employees. Perhaps there’s a better time slot or day of the week.
- Set better boundaries in your meeting management, by scheduling “cushion” in your calendar. It’s a physical impossibility (even with virtual meetings) to be in a meeting that ends at 11 AM and on time for the next one that starts at 11 AM. Better yet, implement a 45-minute meeting structure for all your (former) one hour meetings.
Make use of the “simple” managerial tool of 1:1 check-in meetings. Although not easy, doing so will pay dividends in trust, engagement and improved communication.