January 29, 2021

The One-on-One Meeting with Direct Reports (Part 2 of 2)

The Managers’ Corner:

In our January 22, 2021 blog, we introduced the idea of a regular one-on-one meeting with direct reports.  I indicated that the next blog would look at the need for a system to record and to recall the items that would be, in effect, the agenda for each meeting.

Remember the days when we’d get something from our supervisors that said “For Action”?  Unless you really wanted to or felt it needed action, you could usually disregard it because it likely would never come up again!  That was a situation I wanted to avoid.  If I felt the item was important enough to send along and I wanted to be “in the loop,” I had to have some way of reminding my report – and myself – that I wanted this dealt with, explained or at least read.

What I did was to create a file for each of my reports.  It was simply labeled by the department & the report’s name.  In the file was a template with four columns:  Date, Item, Notes, Completion Date.

The Date simply referred to the date I sent or received a message.

The Item was the most important part.  It was a brief one or two line description that would cause me to recall the nature of the item.  If the item emanated from the department head, it could read, “Email of May 27 on problem with Bill Jones’ field trip.  Resolved yet?” 

The Notes provided me with a space to jot down what had happened so far or whether the item was completed and how it was resolved.

The Completion Date was when the issue had been resolved.  If it was not filled in, then I would know that it would be discussed again at the next meeting.

Keeping a log or register of this sort was not nearly as time-consuming as you might think.  It would take me 15-20 minutes at the end of each day to review any documentation I had accumulated for distribution to my reports or to briefly log issues from emails.

That’s the way the agenda was developed.  No other documentation was needed by me for the next meeting.  The point of this system was to keep both myself and my reports in continuous communication and to remind them that there would always be follow up. 

Not only did it give me insight into the work of their departments, it showed that I was interested and aware of whether items were being resolved or followed up on.  It was an example of a leadership behaviour that Michael Fullan of the University of Toronto called “the genius balance of pressure and support.”

And there was another outcropping that came about that I did not anticipate.  Perhaps it was, in the long run, the most important of all.

In the course of those one-on-ones a relationship developed that, in some cases has lasted long past the days when these sessions were used for formal purposes.  It was a relationship built on trust, understanding, frank communication, assistance and guidance – and it served both of us well over the years.  

In the end, each of us was better at our jobs because we had availed ourselves of the expertise and commitment of the colleagues with whom we worked – together – as professionals trying to do the best we could for the people we were hired to serve.

Dr. Dan

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