A good way for managers to develop their employees’ performance is to conduct regular one to one sessions to review progress against their performance objectives and development plan.

Such sessions can encourage employees to communicate openly in private and be more active in team meetings and brainstorming sessions.

Research shows that regular reviews, ongoing feedback and continued focus on development improve employee performance.  And, with regular conversations,  both parties will be able to worry a lot less about any big surprises when annual performance review meetings are held.

Here are some practical tips for planning and running a useful one-to-one meeting.

1.  Have one-to-one meetings about once a month.  Various demands on your time will affect how often you can set aside an hour for each employee, but about once every four weeks should be enough. Keep day to day work updates and other deliverables out of the conversation unless the employee brings up issues related to them.  Instead, focus on bigger picture progress with performance and development.

2.  Conduct them in the employee’s office or “neutral” space.  Employees can be a little intimidated by their bosses, and nobody likes criticism, even the constructive kind. Creating a relaxed atmosphere and putting the employee at ease so they can speak his or her mind is a huge key to success in any developmental session.

3.  Spend about half the hour on a review of performance against short-term goals and objectives.  Start with asking the employee what progress they’ve made and explore with them what has contributed to that progress (for example actions they’ve taken, behaviours and attitudes that have helped, skills they have demonstrated, relationships and resources that they have drawn on) Provide feedback to reinforce those things that have worked well and help generate ideas and actions to progress further.  Clearly identify the items you’ll be reviewing a month from now and set a couple of broad expectations for the employee to meet. This gives the one- on-one a sense of purpose and prevents the reviews from turning into hour-long chat that seem to go nowhere.

4.  Allow out about half the session for the employee to use in the way that they would find most valuable.  On the surface, this can be frustrating to busy managers crazy, but employees need an opportunity to vent about what’s bugging them and ask for support if they need it.  Having said that, never put off addressing a real-time issue outside of your one-to-ones.  If an employee is bothered enough to come to you with a problem, you can make a few minutes to listen. Remember, one-to- ones are a structured approach to ongoing employee development; they aren’t a substitute for all employee conversations.

5.  Let the employee do most of the talking.  For the most part, when you speak during a one-to-one, it should be to ask the employee a question or to give feedback after asking a couple of questions.  In other words, a coaching style of conversation.   You get a clearer picture of what’s really going on in his or her world and can encourage the employee to take ownership of their performance and development rather than  jumping in with advice and instructions. Remember, one reason you are having such a structured session is to empower and develop your employees. So listen and learn.

What other tips would you add to the list?