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See that stranger across the street? Are you more trusted?

The research is shocking.

According to Harvard Business Review (2018), 58% of workers trust a stranger more than their own boss. This is truly appalling. It should be a wake-up call to every one of us working in a leadership position:

"Are my people in that 58%??"

An absence of trust between boss and employee will undermine almost everything we want to accomplish as leaders. It makes easy conversations hard. It makes realistic goals impossible. It dispels creativity. It sabotages positive change. No trust, no momentum.

The opposite is also true. Trust makes hard conversations easy. It makes realistic goals a slam dunk. It fosters creativity. It equips us for positive change. High trust, high influence.

Building (and sustaining) high-trust relationships should always be a priority. And yet...time and time again I see managers and sr. leaders skip some of the most impactful trust-building activities.

Enter the 1:1 meeting.

How are your 1:1's going? According to Gallup, 44% of employees who have regular meetings with their Managers report being engaged, while only 20% of employees who have no meetings report the same (Gallup, 2016).

As if we needed a research study to tell us what we already knew, right? It's no surprise that regular, one-on-one conversations with employees will build trust, remove barriers and drive engagement. Perhaps more than any other activity you invest your time in. On top of those benefits, Managers who prioritize not just doing these meetings but doing them well, experience far more satisfying relationships and higher productivity from their teams.

I know this to be true both experientially and intellectually. And it's why I am always shocked by how few Managers and Senior Leaders actually prioritize them.

I'm sorry to say it, but are the worst offenders.

If these are so darn effective, why are so many people not doing them? Well, there's some human behaviour at play, of course (why do we not eat more vegetables, or drink more water, or get more exercise??). And, there are some other factors at play too:

1) Too many people simply don't know what excellent looks like.

They go through the motions of a 1:1 meeting, check the box, and then move on, without much intentionality. This, of course, makes their meetings completely ineffective. That realization fuels a "this is a waste of time" thought pattern, which then shapes their future behaviour (cancelling, postponing, short-cutting, or simply not scheduling them at all).

The solution?

Learn what great looks like, and commit to doing it. If you search "1:1 Meetings" on Google, you'll get 243,000,000 search results. There's no shortage of materials out there. In an hour (or less) you can figure out for yourself what the best practices are, by exploring different approaches and filtering them through your own experiences, your company's culture and your company's goals. If you want a short cut, you find my perspective in this mini-read. Another great resource is to go straight to Susan Scott's book, Fierce Conversations.

2) Doing them well takes a special kind of energy that some of us have a hard time summoning up.

Highly effective 1:1 meetings - the kind of 1:1's that get results every single time - are entirely employee focused. That means the facilitator of the meeting (Manager, Sr. Leader, CEO), has to be prepared to show up, slow down, and listen. They need to be ready to ask. They need to be ready to learn. They need to show up curious and invested in the person sitting across from them, having set aside their own struggles, ambitions and priorities for this one hour. In other words, they need to coach. If you are someone wired for action - a quick thinking, move it forward, get things done kind of person, this is hard for you.

The solution?

Schedule them at a time of day that lines up with your energy. You probably already know that there are times of the day when you are at your most productive, and times of the day when you are more inclined to reflect, think, learn. Set yourself up for success by scheduling "big picture" meetings at time when you are most likely to bring "big picture" energy. You can also help yourself by "automating" these meetings as much as possible. Create a list of your very favourite questions to get the conversation started, to keep the conversation moving, and to close the conversation effectively. Create a process, and stick to it.


Most of us have very few opportunities in our lives where someone - someone we respect - will sit down and devote a whole hour, uninterrupted, to simply understand where we are at; what's going on in our worlds; what do we need.

When we get this opportunity with the one person who is most directly responsible for our work satisfaction? Now that is, quite literally, a game changer.

If you are a boss at any level, remember that you are the primary influence in the worklife of your employees. You are the main reason they grow, or stagnate. You are the biggest reason they are focused or stressed.

Never. Underestimate. Your impact.

The 1:1 Meeting is your (not-so) secret weapon for showing your people you are in their corner - you are invested in their success. Elevating your 1:1 meetings creates a foundation of trust, and trust is your platform for influence.

As a bonus, you might just learn some things you didn't already know - about yourself, about your employees, or about your business.


This month's workshop goes deep on how to elevate your 1:1 Meetings for powerful results. You can register here.

The Skillful Manager Program develops exceptional Managers: Managers who Get Results. Managers who Nurture Others. Managers who Build your Legacy. You can learn more about our training programs here.

For bi-weekly tips to help you thrive in your role, subscribe here.


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