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3 Conversations Every Manager Should Have with Their Employee

As a first-time manager, I wasn’t entirely sure what I should be doing to get the most out of my people. In fact, I wasn’t sure what to do to gain their respect. I was in my mid-twenties and much of my team was my age, if not older.

Where should I start? What should I do? How should I lead this meeting? What are they seeking? Can they tell I have no clue what I’m doing?

As a person who loves a good checklist, I felt thrust into a role without a plan of what to do or how to lead. I read leadership books and met leaders to find any tips on how to best lead– and, I began experimenting with my team. A few years and several mistakes later, I found three conversations to be invaluable in my team’s performance and development.

I thought I’d share them with you– to help you take a strategic, long-term view on leading your people.

Here’s a list of the three discussions managers should have with their employees:

1) Check-in: The check-in is a weekly or bi-weekly meeting to help your employee troubleshoot tasks while also realigning priorities. The purpose is to hold her accountable and give any insights needed. It can happen anywhere, over the phone or in person, and can be 10-15 minutes. Conversations like this give you insight into the progress of your team and serve as a calibration point. It affords your employees the opportunity to get help on specific issues while also making sure her energies are spent on the most pressing business needs.

TIP: Use the below agenda outline as a launching off point.

1) Updates: Here is a chance for both of you to share any relevant updates.

2) Working Items: This is the time to help her with issues from the past week.

3) Action Items: End the meeting aligning on next steps for each of you. I found recapping this in an email was an effective way to hold us both accountable.

Before meeting, spend a few minutes reviewing last week’s action items and adding relevant notes for the upcoming meeting – ask your employee to do the same.

2) Development conversation: These are monthly or quarterly conversations to have with your employee about how she wants to grow, where she wants to develop herself and how you can help her get there. The purpose of this conversation is to connect with your employee, show her you care about her life and learn how you can support her development. Development conversations should happen outside of a typical meeting, maybe over lunch, a walk, or coffee. Taking this time with your employees shows them you care about her future while creating an opportunity for you to be a coach in her growth.

TIP: These 3 questions are a great place to start…

  • What skills are you looking to develop?

  • How do you want to grow?

  • How can I help you grow?

3) Performance review: The performance review should happen quarterly or bi-annually. The purpose of this meeting is to evaluate the performance of your employee and understand how she is tracking towards her long-term goals – measuring how she compared to her quarterly targets. It is a point in time to assess her growth towards current goals and a place to set future goals. Have your employee come to the meeting prepared to share her results– it’s often best to review this before the meeting. The performance review is a powerful way to look at the big picture for your employee – pulling out of the weekly working items – giving her objective feedback on her growth and goals.

TIP: Here are a few sample questions I asked my team…

  • What are some significant accomplishments from last quarter?

  • What didn’t go as planned? What happened? What did you learn?

  • What is an area of growth you want to focus on for next quarter?

  • What can I do to better support you?

As a first-time manager, it can be very confusing and overwhelming trying to figure out what you should do with your team– understanding where to start, what's necessary and how to do it. We often get lost in the subtle yet distinct differences between holding people accountable, giving development feedback and reviewing performance without proper structure to do any of these exceptionally well.

The goal of the above checklist is to break these three desired outcomes of checking in, developing talent and analyzing performance into separate meetings. When you do this, you create a more clarity for yourself and your employees.

Use the checklist as a framework for leading your team– plan the meetings and share the purpose of each meeting with your team. It’ll give you focus while also empowering your people to own their growth.

Originally published in Forbes on September 6th, 2017

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