How to not commit the cardinal sin of leadership

The cardinal sin of leadership is not doing one-on-ones (1:1) with your team members. Even worse than that is scheduling those meetings every week, fortnight, or month, and either not attending or continually rescheduling. These behaviours are so damaging to the relationship between the leader and team member. 

Oh, and there is only one thing worse than either not scheduling those meeting or rescheduling those meetings, and that is to use the excuse that you are just too busy. Any leaders out there that say they are too busy for their team are just saying that their team member (and connecting with them regularly) is not a priority for the leader. I am too busy is translated (subconsciously by the team member) as my leader has higher priorities than our relationship. Which is uncool. 

And the reality is that leaders are busy. They have too much to do. They are stretched, and for some, taking the time to have the regular 1:1s that they need to, can be a real challenge on their time and their calendar. 

Here are some real practical tips and tricks to help you stay committed and focused on your one-on-ones.

1. Know how important those meetings are 

1:1 meetings are highly valued by team members. Sometimes, a 1:1 meeting is the only quality time that a team member gets with their leader. Most team members prepare well of these meetings, have a list of things to discuss with their leader, and generally make great use of the time. Obviously, some team members don’t take them that seriously, but the message is that 1:1 meetings give employees face to face time to discuss the things that are important to them. 

During COVID, Microsoft surveyed their leaders and teams to understand how important 1:1 meetings really are, and if the business benefits from them as much as the employee does. Their findings were published in a blog post titled ‘The new Manager 1:1: nurturing employee resiliency during disruption and change’. And they were published at the link below (under sources). 

In short, and to unpack just how important 1:1 meetings are for a leader and team member, these meetings actually lead to less meetings overall. Winner. They lead to better collaboration and less work hours for team members. Winner. They lead to more resilient team members. And they lead to a better work life balance for team members, because the meetings are not just work related. Winer. The data is conclusive, and it demonstrates that if 1:1 meetings work during a high stress time like during a global pandemic, imagine how well they will work in your business now (two years on). 

And sometimes just knowing how important things are, like 1:1 meetings, can mean that you put higher priority on them, and don’t reschedule or miss them.

2. Take ownership and responsibility for your calendar 

This means not changing or rescheduling 1:1 meetings. It is hard to put it any other way, sorry. 

I was going to leave this paragraph there, but that would be uncool, because I know that there are things that pop up, and that need your urgent attention. I get that, but I also get how your team members feel when they are ‘rescheduled.’ The big thing here, is to have the conversation firstly about what else is happening that is preventing you from attending the 1:1 meeting. And it’s not being too busy ?. And if you do reschedule, make sure you attend the rescheduled meeting (and yes, you won’t believe how many leaders I know that are in a perpetual cycle of rescheduling). 

Also, if you have someone that coordinates your calendar, like I do, ask them to hold you accountable. And ask for their commitment to also hold you accountable.  

And consider the use of notifications or other push prompts, to make sure you are in your office, or the meeting room, when you next 1:1 meeting is due to begin. At Microsoft, “tools such as MyAnalytics have manager-focused features that remind managers to maintain 1:1 connection with employees through nudges.” If it is good enough for Microsoft, it should be good enough for us, for sure. 

3. Know that it is never too late to start 

Again, from the Microsoft study “When manager 1:1s hadn’t been a long-term habit, increasing them had an immediate benefit.” An immediate benefit. 

Imagine what else there is at your disposal, as you sit and read this post, that you could implement right now, without much effort. And that will help you create happier, more resilient, and better-balanced team members. If you can think of something, please put it in the comments, and I will study it and write a post about it in coming weeks.  

I just can’t think of anything else that are as good as 1:1 meetings for changing the dynamics in your team.  

In another post, we can unpack how to have great 1:1 meetings, as some leaders take the entire meeting, and give directions. Then in the last five minutes, ask ‘and how are you going?’ This is not optimal. A conversation for another day. 

In summary, 1:1 meetings are extremely important. They create engaged team members and teams. They allow the leader to focus on building the relationship. 

To reschedule or to not values 1:1 meeting is just the cardinal sin of leadership (in my humble opinion). 

Want to learn more about how to understand or how to never reschedule your 1:1 meetings? 

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About Anton

Anton has dedicated his working life to helping leaders to upgrade their mindset, upskill their leadership, and uplift their teams! With a focus on helps leaders to better lead under pressure. Anton is an entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, bestselling author and founder of The Guinea Group. Over the past 19 years, Anton has worked with over 175+ global organisations, he has inspired workplace leadership, safety, and cultural change. He’s achieved this by combining his corporate expertise, education (Bachelor of HR and Psychology), and infectious energy levels.
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