Effective Check-Ins: Build Relationships and Performance
Sam Kalk • Published on Nov 29, 2020 • 5 min read
Regular manager meetings are one of the biggest points of potential leverage that organizations can make use of today. Easily overlooked and undervalued, the manager meeting, 1-on-1, or “Check-In” as we call it, can either develop or severely hinder the performance of employees as well as their motivation to do good work. The manager meeting is a grounding piece in the manager-employee relationship that builds trust, creates camaraderie, and fosters transparency that is invaluable to the employees’ career development. Productive Check-Ins can cover varying topics, but always contain a few integral portions that bolster the relationship and foster true career development for the individual contributor.
Make them Regular
The most important factor in running effective check-ins is to set them on a regular schedule. Employees and their managers should be able to depend on the fact that there is time set aside for them to connect and collaborate. Setting aside this time creates consistent space for employees to rely on and helps create an environment where their growth is the focus.
If meetings are only sporadically held, or worse, only at the employee’s request, the tone, purpose, and power dynamic of the meeting are not mutually understood or agreed upon.
Setting aside this time creates consistent space for employees to rely on and helps create an environment where their growth is the focus.
We recommend that managers set this time aside for each employee at a minimum of once a month, but find that (depending on the size of the team) weekly and bi-weekly Check-Ins can be even more beneficial. The frequency of the meeting should be determined by the needs and time constraints of the team.
Respect the Space
Because the tone of these regular meetings should be focused on career development and employee growth, it is imperative that both parties respect the time and space that they have devoted to each other. Ways to respect the space are:
As an employee this is the time to raise concerns, ask questions, and discover more about potential career paths. Prepare for the meeting ahead of time by jotting down a few questions, important topics that you’d like to cover, even feedback that you’d like to give. Building an agenda for the meeting can be extremely helpful to make sure all important topics are covered.
As a manager, this is the time to listen, get feedback, and give professional guidance. Prepare for the time by understanding the possibilities available to employees, knowing their success metrics, and reading over the agenda before the meeting to avoid any surprise topics.
Be on Time
Timeliness shows respect for each other’s schedules and the subject matter to be covered within the meeting (personal and professional development). Arrive prepared at a time that shows this respect.
Distractions are everywhere, and it’s important that they don’t seep into the meeting. If in person, keep phones away from view and computers closed. If holding the meeting over video conference, be sure to turn notifications off on devices to ensure full attention is paid to the subject matter at hand.
A shared record of Check-Ins creates built-in accountability for managers and employees. By documenting meetings in a centralized location, managers and employees have a place to which they can return to remember action items and helpful guidance, to record important portions of conversations, to prepare for subsequent meetings, and even to help inform future manager-employee relationships after a promotion or personnel shakeup. Organizations that use Motis Grow use the Check-In function to keep a consistent record of Check-Ins with employees, which is maintained on the Timeline.
Focus on Why
Many resources on meeting management assert that it’s important that manager check-ins be positive in nature. In reality, ensuring that every manager meeting will be positive is unrealistic, and contrary to what is needed by a healthy employee-manager relationship. Employees still need to receive valuable constructive feedback, and managers need a way they can adequately address performance issues (we recommend a 5:1 ratio of positive to constructive feedback).
Instead of pushing towards the goal of fostering overall positivity, managers and employees alike should work to focus on their “why”, the intrinsic motivators that drive people at a deeper level. These might be the joy that they get through the work that they do, the feeling they get when they help others, the love they feel for their family, or the connection they share with their team. It is imperative that organizations aid their employees in discovering and developing these intrinsic motivators, an exercise that can make for one or a number of interesting Check-In conversations.
By connecting performance and growth to intrinsically held values, Check-Ins can deliver constructive feedback and development conversations in a context that bolsters feelings of autonomy and agency for employees in regards to their performance and overall career development.