How was your weekend? This is a question we usually hear on Monday morning at the office. If the question comes from our boss, it may be a way to break the ice before getting into work-related matters…Imagine next Monday, instead of asking you about your weekend, your boss asks you… How do you feel at the company? It’s like when someone asks you if you are happy.
Obviously this is not a way to break the ice, this is a question that requires introspection and that may catch you unprepared because you are not used to hearing it. Your boss may even further ask: how do you think I could be a better boss? how are you doing with your improvement goals this year? do you think your role allows you to develop professionally?
As persons’ supervisors, it is easy to recognize the significance of these questions, but they often remain dormant until a specific event triggers them, for instance, if a high-performer decides to leave the company.
Stimulating this type of dialogue is not difficult and it may make the difference between proactive versus reactive management of human capital. If you plan ahead and take the time to prepare these conversations, you will have one-to-one sessions focused on speaking about performance and development. For these conversations to be effective, they should become part of your work routine, occur periodically and be prepared, just like you prepare your work meetings. Therefore, one-to-ones should become a key habit to manage talent.
What are the benefits of these one-to-one meetings?
I interview qualified and highly-experienced professionals on a daily basis and I am surprised by the fact that many of them are not familiarized with this type of processes. Concepts such as performance assessment, competences, goals review, feedback meetings… do not sound familiar to them, unless they come from a multinational where everybody goes through an annual performance assessment but doesn’t really understand the purpose of it.
So I wonder how Spanish SMEs are surviving without having implemented a performance assessment policy, how are they managing their associates’ development? How do they grow professionally? By taking some course that they haven’t even requested? By winning a couple of accounts that allow them to meet their billing targets? With one meeting at the end of the year because they are forced by HR?
Having conversations on your associates’ development periodically can make a difference. You should regard these meetings as an opportunity.
As an employee, it is the moment to listen to constructive feedback and talk about your work, your concerns, your achievements, the support you may need, what is not going as expected, etc. It is time to take that helping hand and move forward. At the end of the meeting you will realize that the talk was worth it, among other things, to understand what you are doing right or wrong, what is expected from you, to align with or redirect goals, define plans and actions, detect areas to be improved and training needs and decide where you want to take your career within the company. It is like taking a break to ask for help and correct the course. Receiving honest feedback from someone like you, who wants you to reach the finish line doesn’t sound that bad… does it?
As a persons’ manager, it is your duty to push this process and do it with the right approach, otherwise it may be awkward both for the employee and for the supervisor asking those questions.
The key is preparing the meetings. While it is true that not all conversations will be equally fruitful, you will however generate a climate of confidence which will make honest and cooperative communication possible.
How often and what content?
Frequently and as often as your environment allows. It may be a more or less formal meeting once a month. You should put time aside to have these development conversations at the work place or over a cup of coffee outside of the office. Remember though that, although work matters will come up inevitably, they are not the purpose of these meetings.
Following up the goals set at the beginning of the year on a monthly basis, discussing which obstacles were found along the way, how you can develop through challenges, defining or clarifying responsibilities, which and whose support you need… If you are managing a team, you should certainly feel the need to implement this process. This is the least a person working for you deserves. Additionally, you will be already trained by the time you have to do the employee’s yearly assessment.
If your company has not implemented this system yet, I recommend you ask yourself from time to time: what do I do best, where can I improve, what competences should I develop to improve my performance…?
What for? Some day you may get to a job interview and you may be asked these very same questions, so you will be able to answer professionally. Or, better yet, you may be in charge of a team in your next job and you may want to ask them, not only about their weekend, but also about these other matters, which are surely an efficient tool to manage their professional development.