Effective One on Ones

December 7, 2009 - Mac Lake - Leadership, Management

When I was a church planter back in 1997 I gathered a team of seven leaders around me to oversee the seven key ministries of our church.  I knew that it was important to meet with these leaders as a group on a consistent basis.  But I also knew that consistent one on ones are essential for good performance management.  So I scheduled myself to meet with some of them each week, some every two weeks and others just once a month.  The problem was, while I knew it was important to do these one on ones, I had no idea what to do when I was meeting with these individual leaders. 

I consistently found myself driving to these meetings with a feeling of dread and guilt.  Dread because I didn’t know what to talk to them about and guilt because I felt I was going to waste their time.  So on my way to meet them I would always scratch out an agenda to discuss with them.  Over time I began to recognize a pattern in this agenda and I stumbled upon something that really worked.  I still use this agenda pattern for my one on ones to this day.  So if you know you should do one on ones with your direct reports but are unsure what to do, give this 5 P agenda a try this week.

  • Personal – I like to start my one on ones by asking about the individual and how they are doing personally.  I may ask about their family, spiritual health or a circumstance I know they are going through personally.  But this is my opportunity to connect with them and also to care for their soul.
  • Priorities – I have each of my direct reports write up to five goals each semester.  So when we meet one on one (usually every two weeks) we talk about those priority goals and how things are going.  This allows me to hear about progress or challenges they’re facing and gives me the opportunity to coach them on their top priorities.
  • Problems – I always  like to ask, are there any problems you are facing that I can help you with?  Just in case they are working on something that is outside of their priority goals this gives them the opportunity to talk about other issues they may be facing that I can help with.  It may be an issue with another employee, a challenge with another department or even a problem they are having with my leadership.  This helps me keep a finger on the pulse of their spirit or morale.
  • Plan – This part only takes a couple of minutes.  You simply a restate anything you or your direct report  committed to do as follow up to the one on one.   I would recommend putting a due date on the actions agreed upon.  ( I always forget this part and it gets me I trouble all the time)
  • Prayer – End your one on one by asking how you can pray for your direct report, then pray specifically for their needs.  This once again allows you to practice soul care for this individual. 

Today’s Personal Leadership Challenge:  Schedule a one on one with each of your direct reports at least every other week for three months and follow the 5 P agenda.

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Mac Lake


My passion is multiplying multipliers

2 responses to Effective One on Ones

  1. Mac, you could compile your blog entries in paper format and sell it to me as a book. I’d totally buy it.

  2. Man, this sound very familiar??? Mac, you got to stop stealing my ideas!!! LOL! This format is working GREAT at Metro South.

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