The Top Three Tools for Conducting Successful One-on-Ones with Employees

Hello, my fellow supervisors! I see you there, juggling tasks, managing schedules, and keeping the wheels of your team turning. But let’s pause for a moment. Take a deep breath, because today, we’re diving into the heart of leadership—the one-on-one conversations with your team members.


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Why One-on-Ones Matter

Picture this: You’re sitting across from your employee, coffee mugs in hand, and the hum of machinery fades into the background. This is your sacred space—the one-on-one. It’s not just a check-in; it’s a chance to connect, understand, and nurture growth. Here’s how these conversations can transform your team:

1. Listening with Intent: Ears Wide Open

Your team members aren’t just cogs in the corporate machine; they’re humans with dreams, fears, and stories. So, lean in and listen. Not the half-hearted glancing-at-your-phone kind of listening. Nuh-uh. Active listening:

  • Empathize: Imagine walking in their shoes. What’s their day like? What keeps them awake at night? How are they viewing the job? What do they see that you don't?
  • Ask Open-Ended Questions: “Tell me more.” “How did that make you feel?” "How would you fix this?" "What's your opinion?" These questions open doors.
  • Silence Speaks: Sometimes, the most profound moments happen in silence. Let your silence breathe. You're not listening if you're talking. This is their time to speak.



2. Speak Their Language: No Jargon Zone

Remember, you’re not reciting a legal document. Your team shouldn’t need a dictionary to decode your words. Keep it simple:

  • Clear Expectations: “Here’s what I expect.” No cryptic messages. If it was your own teenage kid you were speaking to, would they recognize you? Use the same way of explaining to employees you would explain to a cared-for member of your own family.
  • Feedback Sandwich: Pepper your one-on-ones with plenty of positives. In Module 6 of our PeopleWork Supervisor training program, we show you the real positive-to-critical comments ratio for keeping teams motivated. 
  • Celebrate Wins: “High-five, superstar!” Acknowledge victories, big or small. Spring for donuts, breakfast sandwiches, whatever. Food makes it an event. Where there's food, it feels more social. 

3. Positive Vibes Only: Sprinkle Kindness

Words are like seeds. Plant something positive and watch it bloom:

  • Appreciation Bouquets: “Thank you for staying late.” “Your attention to detail rocks!”
  • Growth Mindset: “Mistakes happen. Let’s learn.” Encourage resilience.
  • Constructive, Not Destructive: “Let’s tweak this approach.” No finger-pointing.



Takeaways for Your Supervisor Toolbox

  1. Frequency Matters: Regular one-on-ones build trust. Weekly or biweekly - but the best is daily for one or two minutes if you can.
  2. Agenda Magic: Set an agenda. What’s on their plate? What’s on yours? Keep it balanced. What do you want to accomplish with this conversation? Every connection with your team should have a reason to take them away from their work.
  3. Walk the Talk: If you promise support, deliver it. Actions speak louder than buzzwords. Don't miss the deadlines and the I'll-get-back-to-you's that you promise. You can't make a promise and then forget it.

One-on-ones are your secret sauce. They’re where trust grows, ideas flourish, and bonds strengthen. So, sip that coffee, listen deeply, and be the supervisor your team wants to have. 🌟

P.S. For more wisdom, dive into Kevin Burns’s book, The CareFull Supervisor1. It’s like a treasure chest of leadership gems.

Takeaway Ideas:

  1. Frequency Matters: Regular one-on-ones build trust.
  2. Agenda Magic: Set an agenda. Keep it balanced.
  3. Walk the Talk: Actions speak louder than buzzwords.

Topics: supervisor training, supervisor leadership, the carefull supervisor, positive supervisor