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A one-to-one doesn’t mean going head to head


Speaking to staff members directly will leave you both with a clearer sense of targets and achievements.

It’s a fact that in today’s NHS more than ever, managers in all areas of service need to be able to confidently delegate tasks.

A lot of people find delegation difficult because they assume they will have a lack of control over how work is undertaken and completed. As a result of that, they also feel the need to assure themselves the work being done will meet their expectations. This means there is a risk of micromanaging, which can be demoralising for everyone.

A key tool to help managers delegate effectively is the one-to-one meeting or “catch up”. One-to-ones are constructive and supportive meetings between a manager and a member of staff. They aren’t appraisals or performance reviews, instead they are an opportunity to:

  • Update each other on work progress;
  • Set targets for projects;
  • Give feedback on performance; and
  • Enhance motivation and job satisfaction.

The objectives of a one-to-one meeting are to inspire, influence, coach, listen, solve problems and make decisions.

You can judge the effectiveness of your one-to-ones by looking at your staff member afterwards. Do they look despondent? Are their shoulders sagging? Or do they appear to feel motivated and energised?

Members of staff who are motivated and happy are more likely to have good levels of job satisfaction and, consequently, be more successful in their roles. Many such people will often deliver over and above expectations.

The box above outlines the best way to handle a one-to-one to ensure you and your staff get the most out of it.

Tips for an effective one-to-one meeting

  • Schedule meetings regularly – how often will vary according to the staff member and the work undertaken
  • Don’t cancel – it’s tempting when workloads are heavy but can be extremely demotivating and detrimental to performance
  • Turn off or shut out all distractions. Focus on the staff and what they need
  • Let the staff member set the agenda. Some people like a formal structure but some don’t – be flexible to allow for individual preference
  • Let staff talk first about what they think is important. Once they have said what they want to discuss you can go through your own list
  • Don’t interrogate staff – try to adopt a coaching style of questioning and really listen to what is being said
  • Make time to just talk. Get to know staff, ask about their job satisfaction, family, health and so on
  • Don’t end on a negative note. Let staff know what they have done well and give them positive feedback
  • Ask for feedback – how could you make the meeting more effective?

Lyndsay Short is deputy director at the East Midlands Leadership Academy and has a background in surgical nursing. She also leads on the Inclusive Leadership for a Purpose strategy, which brings together patient and public involvement and inclusion to improve the quality of education and practice in leadership.


Readers' comments (5)

  • My manager finds it much easier to give negative feedback, often feeding back my own concerns to me, rather that giving me anything positive.

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  • why do managers need to be told how to do this, isn't this just a routine part of their job anyway?

    Presumably this is a two-way thing, staff should be able to tell managers what they think of their performance.

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  • do managers have time for these 'one to ones' especially if they have a large team?

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  • zzzzzzz. No one falls for this cr*p anymore.

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  • King Vulture

    'This means there is a risk of micromanaging, which can be demoralising for everyone.'

    That is the core problem - it comes down to who will end up taking the blame, when something goes wrong ! That is where some really absurd tick-box lists come from, and why it is so difficult to just let people get on with it.

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