In sports, the team with the most stars doesn’t always win. For example, NBA teams with three or fewer stars have a winning record over teams with four or more stars. Yes, having talented players is essential, but having a balance of star and role players results in more wins. Why? Winning teams have clear goals, they trust each other, they have players who know and thrive in their roles, they understand how each player contributes to the success of the team, and they are coached. The coach builds the team by coaching the players, by playing to their strengths, by holding them accountable, and by challenging them to be better.
The same is true with teams in business. And, the results are clear. Healthy, high-performing teams deliver greater profits and customer satisfaction, create higher retention and engagement for employees.
However, most managers don’t think of themselves as coaches. Performance is usually managed through a HR-created, standardized review process where employees are given feedback and measured against individual goals. But all too often, review feedback is not helpful because it’s untimely and lacks context. According to Gallup, 74% of employees receive a performance review once per year or less and only 23% of employees report getting the meaningful feedback that’s necessary for growth and improved performance. Clearly, the current way of managing performance is not working.
Before any individual employees’ performance is ranked and judged, it’s the manager's job to make sure everyone on the team feels connected to the group and has the guidance to perform their best. Managers who succeed at this task do so by reimagining their role. Rather than thinking of themselves as a traditional manager, whose primary responsibility it is to assign and oversee work by the people on her/his team, progressive managers view themselves as coaches, whose job it is to establish team culture, cohesion, trust and safety. The need for team trust has never been greater and allows the people on the team to complete work in the safety and consistency of their team, despite the worries of the changing world around them. How do coaches create this environment?
A crucial ingredient for great coaching is one-on-one meetings
One-on-one meetings with employees are the best opportunity for managers to assume the role of coach and develop meaningful relationships with their employees. It enables personalized coaching and the ability to connect, all of which leads to building trust and a feeling of safety.
Here are 3 tips to make your one-on-ones effective:
Hold them frequently
By holding one-on-ones frequently, coaches can give employees near real-time feedback in detail so that actions can be taken immediately to improve. Holding the meetings weekly or every other week (depending on the role and needs of the employee) allows coaches to ensure expectations are clear and employees are held accountable for their commitments.
Focus on Development
One-on-ones should be tailored to and focused on the development and growth of the employee (part of which is how they contribute to and impact the team). This process starts with understanding what each employee wants to accomplish personally and professionally, and why.
Great business coaches know the strengths and weaknesses of each employee. Employees want personalized development, such as opportunities for training courses, being connected with a mentor or being part of a cross-functional team to maximize and develop their strengths and improve their weaknesses. According to Gallup, the opportunity to learn and grow in a career is the number one feature millennials look for when applying for a job.
Be Positive and Future-Focused
Finally, one-on-ones should be positive and focused on the future. It’s important to celebrate the employee’s accomplishments and understand what led to that success so it can be repeated. Effective coaching also requires helping employees anticipate, focus, prioritize and learn from their work. Coaches help employees see how they can be successful and help them realize that vision.
Employees want to do meaningful work and make a meaningful contribution. They want to be challenged and held accountable. They want to develop and grow. By adopting a coaching mindset and utilizing one-on-one meetings, managers can build the environment where employees can continuously improve and do their best work. By connecting with their employees on a personal and professional level coaches show that they care. By actively advocating for the employee’s growth, the coach builds trust, builds the employee and builds the team.
Bill Campbell, who was CEO at Intuit and an influential coach to people like Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Eric Schmidt, Jeff Bezos, Steve Jobs, and many others said, “Coaching is the best way to mold effective people into powerful teams.” And we know that powerful teams win in business as well as sports.