5 Ways To Take Your 1:1 Meetings To The Next Level

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Over the course of 2016, we traversed the USA and Europe to moderate our “Helping Managers” panel discussions in five different cities. One commonality we noticed among our panelists was how strongly they advocated for regular check-ins, or 1:1s, with their employees. These open, honest conversations have proven to be beneficial for both parties, but for managers they’re particularly advantageous because they help identify problems early within a team.

There’s a clear difference, however, between simply scheduling regular 1:1s and building a culture of successful 1:1s within your team or organization. So how can you revamp individual meetings within your own company? Below are the five key approaches that top HR leaders recommend.

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6 Expert Tips On How To Help Your Managers Succeed

Choosing the right managers is one of the most critical decisions an organization makes. But what makes someone a great manager? While a lot of research have identified qualitative traits of great managers and the different ways they contribute to business success – there is still a lack in understanding of what great managers actually do on a daily basis.

Our most recent panel in the Helping Managers Become Better Managers series was held in Berlin. We welcomed expert speakers from TAM Trainer Akademie (Lorenz Illing, MD), Marley Spoon (Cindy Rubbens, Head of Culture & People Operations) and SoundCloud (Jennifer Beecher, Learning & Development) to discuss the importance of managers in organizations. Below we’ve summarized a few key takeaways:

What behaviors do great managers exhibit?

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4 Manager Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Tips from Grovo, Soundcloud, Lifelabs Learning and Recruiting Inferno

Nobody said managing and leading a team would be easy. In fact, being a good manager is one of the most difficult responsibilities a person can take on. According to Gallup, only about one in 10 people have the talent required to manage. But, why is it so hard?

To find out what it takes to be a great manager, we sat down with:

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Start with Caring: HR Experts Share Powerful Manager Tips

Managers account for 70 percent of variance in employee engagement, according to a recent study by Gallup.  With so much riding on the success of our managers, we’ve kicked off conversations around the world to learn how we can help.

Our latest panel session in San Francisco, brought together HR leaders from Bay Area innovators such as Reddit, Pinterest and Disqus to share what they’ve done in their organizations to help managers grow. Read on for some of the key takeaways from this panel session!

What does a great manager look like?

Great managers come in all shapes in sizes. Whether introverted or extroverted, experienced or new to leadership, impactful managers share common traits that all begin with caring.

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They have empathy

Micaela McDonald is a people manager at Pinterest. She stressed that, “having empathy, really caring about people and being able to build trust is one of the most important aspects of being a great manager.”

They follow-through

“Follow-through is the biggest managerial trait that I find myself trying to teach,” said Kim Rohrer, Director of People Operations at Disqus. “You can have all the empathy in the world but if you don’t do anything with that empathy, you’ll lose the trust of your employees.”

Bob Lehto, an HR and Talent Acquisition leader, seconded that notion. He described how important accountability becomes in a managerial role. “You need trust in your team, but you also need a level of accountability and the ability to give feedback to course correct when necessary,” he said.

They match skill with function

Katelin Holloway is the VP of People and Culture at Reddit. She explained, “some of the best managers that I’ve worked with are really incredible matchmakers. Not just in terms of finding the right chemistry but also in being able to match skill sets. They have enough technical depth in the function they’re managing to match the appropriate people with the skills sets necessary to tackle the problems,” she said.

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How can HR support managers?

From training programs to resources, there are tons of ways that HR can help to support managers. While nobody has it perfect, there are places you can start. An initial training program, providing helpful resources and having individual “check-up” meetings with managers are excellent beginnings.

It all starts with listening

“Don’t fall in love with the solution, fall in love with the problem,” said Bob. “It all starts with listening. So often, we come into meetings with a hammer or saw. With experience, we get more tools in the toolbox that we can apply to a solution. But, first you need to truly listen to understand what the problems are.”

Don’t wait for managers to come to you

GA_SI_panel_discussion_May_2016_IMG_9154At Reddit, “HR does monthly one-on-ones with all of our managers. In that session, we cover things that we want to know about,” said Katelin. “We ask them, “who are your rock stars and who is struggling?” The initial manager training isn’t enough. The job of HR is to make the manager’s job easier and you can’t help if they don’t talk to you. The conversation will become healthier and more natural when you’re doing it frequently.” 

What makes a great one-on-one meeting?

There was a joint consensus that the most important aspect of a one-on-one meeting was ensuring that you’re actually having them. Other tips included being emotionally present, allowing the employee to drive the meeting and putting structure around the conversation.

Set dedicated time

“Dedicating thirty minutes to somebody every week and listening to what they say is extremely crucial,” said Micaela. “In those moments you can accomplish so much, identify any budding misalignment, connect with your report and let them know you’re there for them,” she said.

“Make it sacred time,” said Bob. “Anything else could move on my calendar with the exception of one-on-ones. It’s really about being present for them. Sometimes that means being there emotionally, sometimes it can be more tactical. Regardless you’re there to empower that person within a dedicated meeting time,” he said.

Provide structure

“When I started doing one-on-ones, I found that they either became very conversational or very tactical. I found it useful to have employees send me a simple, structured, email before our meeting. The email would answer a few questions such as: here’s where I need your help, here’s what I’ve accomplished this week, here’s what else I’d like to discuss,” said Katelin. It’s beneficial to provide a very basic framework, whatever that looks like within your organization, to make the conversation productive. 

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“I have a google doc of one-on-one feedback hacks. Along with a few basic questions to get the conversation started, it also includes a list of questions to “spice-up”
your meetings,” said Kim.  “It’s important to have an open space to talk about your challenges in a safe way. You’re not necessarily looking for a solution. In fact, sometimes you have to preface the meeting in saying, “I just need to vent now!” But being really clear about what you want to get out of each meeting will help drive the conversation in the right direction.”

If you could offer one tip for new managers, what would it be?

Bring the water

“Everybody dreams about being that person who people follow into the fire. Instead, be the person who has the water and smoke detectors. Start with follow-through and grow from there,” said Micaela.

Be curious

“Be curious. You don’t know what you don’t know. Often, your unconsciously incompetent. Eventually, you’ll reach that nirvana of being a great manager but, at the beginning, just be open and curious,” said Bob.

Manage expectations

“Remember this is not a popularity contest,” said Katelin. “Managing expectations will earn you the most trust in the long run. Don’t promise things you are unable to deliver and don’t feel like you need to have every answer in the moment. By managing expectations both emotionally and tactically, you’ll gain the trust of your employees.”

Want more tips? Check out the full panel session recording below!

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Helping Managers Become Great

One of our goals here at Small Improvements is to help managers become better managers. In an effort to do so, we’re setting out to learn from our customers and peers. Through conversations, panel sessions and questionnaires, we’re learning and crafting guidance materials to share our findings.

As part of this endeavor, we’re rolling out a roadshow series to bring the community together and exchange ideas. We hosted our first panel session last week at Maxwell Health in Boston. Sessions in New York and San Francisco are next. If you’d like to contribute, please share your experiences here, we’d love to hear from you!

IMG_2944First Panel Session Recap

Our Boston panel session brought together a mix of experienced managers and HR leaders to debate on how to help managers become great. The small crowd setting served as a perfect medium for roundtable conversation and questions. Below you can read some snippets, or listen to the full session recording

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