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BW Businessworld

The Power of Leadership Conversations for Managers

For decades, great leaders have sworn by the value of 1-on-1s. Yet, there wasn’t always qualitative evidence to back it up. Fortunately, now there is.

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When you’re leading others as a manager, you need to learn leadership-conversations.  What you do, what you say, how you say things, and how you react or respond are all watched and emulated by your team members, peers and others. Over time, you learn good things to do, key habits to remember, and what not to do.

Here is a simple story from one of my client-coaching engagements, that may be a “aha” moment for you like it was for my client. This story is especially relevant for these times of Covid, Lockdown and Isolation. 

My coachee who heads a large division at a Fortune-100 organisation, had a small team that worked remotely. They got together a few times for dinner & drinks every quarter, but otherwise relied on email, video chats and calls to stay on the same page. This was great to allow everyone to be efficient and focused on their work.

Unfortunately, it also created management blind spots.

Over time, my coachee noticed her best team-member and unit leaders seemed to be disengaging. They didn’t bring the same enthusiasm and energy to their work as before.

My coachee confided in me.  Do we need to let him go? What happened? 

Ideas-for-action: No personal-touch and communication

During our coaching-conversation, my coachee realized she had failed to engage with him for long. It had actually been months since she had last checked-in with him.

Realizing the disengagement might just be her fault, she took responsibility.  She reached out to her associate and instantly scheduled a 1-on-1. 

She started the 1-on-1 by apologizing that she hadn’t engaged with him. Then she enquired about how he and his team members, working remotely were doing.

She discovered that his interests had shifted and he wanted to make some small changes to his role. He also had different long-term goals now. My coachee realised that what she thought was great responsibilities that furthered those goals, were actually misplaced. 

What’s most amazing to me in retrospect is how quickly things turned around for my coachee and her associate.  After just two 1-on-1s, where she listened to him and made some small changes, her associate demonstrated more enthusiasm and quality work.

The Lesson:

From that point forward, I’ve always reminded my clients, that you can’t take any of your people for granted. You have to make time to check in on them, and assume if there’s a problem it could just as much be you causing it as anything wrong with them. And all it took was making time to listen and take action on what my coaches was told by her associate. 

Why it works:

For decades, great leaders have sworn about the value of 1-on-1s. Yet, there wasn’t always qualitative evidence to back it up. Fortunately, now there is.

A study by Harvard Business Review  found  “Employees who got little to no one-on-one time with their manager were more likely to be disengaged. On the flip side, those who get twice the number of one-on-ones with their manager relative to their peers are 67% less likely to be disengaged. What happens when a manager doesn’t meet with employees one-on-one at all? [They are] four times as likely to be disengaged as individual contributors as a whole, and are two times as likely to view leadership more unfavourably compared to those who meet with their managers regularly.”

My coachee  learned the hard way what happens when you don’t check in with a team-member. They became disengaged, and it was because she wasn’t making time for them. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Jerry is a management & OD consultant, celebrated inspirational orator, teacher, UN advisor, internationally certified leadership subject matter expert, trainer, Executive coach and an effective, innovative fundraiser and missionary entrepreneur

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