December 5, 2022

Small Business Advice

One-on-One

Jerry Osteryoung | 11/5/2007

Three billion people on the face of the earth go to bed hungry every night, but four billion people go to bed every night hungry for a simple word of encouragement and recognition.
— Cavett Robert

Every employee needs to feel appreciated and listened to. The more appreciated your staff feels, the more productive they will be. Additionally, with a labor shortage that is expected to grow significantly, it is paramount that all employers make sure that each employee feels worthwhile.

One thing that works incredibly well is to have a monthly one-on-one with each employee that you manage. Many managers think they do not need these sessions as they talk to each worker multiple times each day. However, these conversations are about tasks and usually not about the employee. It is so important that you spend some time talking to each employee about how they are doing.

I can tell you from experience that these one-on-ones are one of the most important things that I do for my staff. I normally take each staff member out to lunch or breakfast. Just a change of venue for these talks really helps.

One of the most significant attributes of these meetings is that the employee feels important because you are giving your undivided attention. Do not take any calls or be interrupted in any way during these sessions. Any interruption says that you are more important than the employee. Furthermore, you must never cancel a meeting. Even if you reschedule it, this sends the message that the employee is not important.

Listening is key in successful one-on-ones. Questions may be used to stimulate conversation, but your focus must be on listening to what the employee is saying. After all, you do not learn anything by talking. Only by listening will you harvest information and feelings.

Some of the key questions you can ask are as follows: “What resources can I give to you to make your job easier?” “What can I do to be a better manager for you?” “How would you rate your overall job satisfaction?” In addition, I always ask some questions about the employee’s family as this really shows caring. Sometimes I ask a question about their long-term plans. I explain that I will support them in whatever their plans might be, but to do so, I first need to understand what they are. I frequently take notes to ensure that I remember the salient points, as well as to subtly get the point across.

Again, remember that your job during these sessions is to gain information and not to give information or wisdom. Listening is a trait that must be practiced over and over. Frequently, people become so concerned about forgetting a question that they feel they must interrupt. If you are worried about forgetting the question, write it down and save it until a more opportune moment. Surprisingly enough, if you just listen, you will often find that the question did not really have value.

Now go out and set up your one-on-ones. I guarantee that you will notice an improvement in the morale of your entire organization as a result of these meetings.

You can do this!

Jerry Osteryoung is the Jim Moran Professor of Entrepreneurship in the College of Business at Florida State University. He is also the Director of the Entrepreneurship Program at FSU and Executive Director of the Jim Moran Institute of Global Entrepreneurship. He can be reached by e-mail at jostery@comcast.net or by phone at 850-644-3372.

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