As former presidential speechwriter James Humes once wisely said, "The art of communication is the language of leadership." As most successful entrepreneurs can attest, a truly talented executive doesn't just dole out orders: they engage their coworkers in one-on-one conversation.
Take Mark Zuckerberg for example. A few months after rolling out the new Facebook Live feature, he and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg livestreamed an integral feature of their business relationship. The secret to their success? One on one meetings, held bi-weekly, since Sandberg joined Facebook eight years previously.
Although Sandberg often brings a list of talking points, the meetings have no set agenda-- instead, the executives simply take the time to chat about and reflect on what's going on in the company.
Although the tradition began simply as a suggestion by Sandberg's late husband Dave, it has since become vitally important to the way they run their company, and is, as Zuckerberg puts it "a really key way in which we share information and feedback and keep stuff moving forward."
Benefits of the One-on-One
According to Sandberg, these one-on-one talks have become absolutely invaluable. "It's been really important," she admitted on Facebook Live, "because we always know we're going to talk things through and we're going to get on the same page."
Because these meetings are fairly informal, they facilitate more than just feedback. By increasing face time, these meetings allow for a whole new level of communication between coworkers, strengthening partnerships over time.
In fact, the benefits are almost too many to count--increased accountability, greater comfort levels between managers and their reportees, and more frequent progress updates, just to name a few.
Although this will inevitably result in many small improvements, like better workload management, the real boon is the transparency and positivity higher ranking management will be able to build with their employees, and with each other.
How it Differs from a Review
"Wait a minute," you might be thinking, "isn't that the point of a performance review?" While performance reviews can certainly foster communication, they're usually centered around one topic: employee performance.
One-on-ones, on the other hand, aren't relegated solely to the realm of evaluation. In these informal meetings, you're free to talk about anything: workload, progress, immediate goals, even personal life!
In fact, if the one-on-ones do their job, they should make reviews significantly less painful and nerve-wracking. After all, performance issues or employee concerns are much less likely to come as a surprise if there was already an open channel of communication.
Integrating One-on-One's Into Your Workplace
Of course, there may not be enough hours in a day to hold bi-weekly meetings with all your employees. Depending on who you're meeting with, you could schedule a quick catch-up once a week, once every two weeks, or even monthly, depending on how many people are reporting to one manager.
Even if it means shaking up your calendar a bit, give one-on-one's a chance: you might be surprised what a change they can make. As Zuckerberg points out, "Companies are not about any one person. They're not really about any two people either --they're these combinations of people in teams." And the ones that work best are the ones that challenge each and every one of their employees to "bring their voice to the table."