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Don’t Just Manage, Coach

By Logan Mallory
Illustration of a man and woman sitting together with a laptop, smiling while having a conversation.

The old command-and-control model for management doesn’t work anymore. Instead, improve employee engagement by assuming the role of coach.

Remember high school soccer? When your coach pulled you aside to show you just how to execute that move? When she modeled the perfect pass? Or when you could depend on her to consistently cheer you on when you were killing it? How about when she corrected you in the moment so you could fix it when it mattered? When she prioritized drills that would actually help you win?

image with text - The same principles apply to managers in the workplace

The same principles apply to managers in the workplace. Your employee engagement will thrive as you take time for 1 on 1s with each person on your team, give consistent feedback, and clearly lay out your priorities.

The Secret Sauce: 1 on 1s

1 on 1s take time, and your calendar is full. It may be tempting to skip meetings where nothing is getting crossed off your to-do list — but don’t.

Employee engagement and increased output are affected by:

  1. employee relationships with their bosses
  2. a feeling of belonging at the company
  3. the recognition and appreciation they receive

The 1 on 1 gives you the opportunity to ring all three bells.

By taking the time to meet individually, you show your employee that you care about them. Consistently canceling these meetings once scheduled, or failing to have them at all, is a surefire way to say: “Oh, lowly direct report, you are not important.”

Instead, use 1 on 1s to foster a relationship. Ask your employee about their hobbies outside of work. Ask them about their career aspirations. Check in about any anxiety they may have about their current project.

Then, listen. If you do all the talking, you could have just sent an email. When you take the time to know your employees, they feel like a valued part of the company and are more likely to stay and perform well.

image with text - A dismal 17 percent of employees said their feedback was meaning at their end-of-year HR review

1 on 1s that occur as frequently as once a week, or once a month at a minimum, also benefit overall performance by giving feedback when it matters. A dismal 17% of employees said their feedback was meaningful at their end-of-year HR review. It’s like that soccer coach waiting to give you advice until after you repeatedly lost. Better luck next season!

Instead, offer constructive feedback about how your employees can improve the work they are currently doing. Then watch their abilities and the quality of their work product increase. Win, win.

Your 1 on 1s can also help clarify which priorities you need your employee to focus on amidst all the goals you have as a company. Which elements of the current project are most important? Where are the resources being directed now? What is the larger vision for what this project will accomplish? Show your employees that they are an important piece of these puzzles and the company.

Finally, don’t forget to thank your employee for their time, efforts, humor, or even the tamales they brought last week. This is the perfect time to give recognition and appreciation that will boost overall employee engagement.

Your Go-To Agenda

product screenshot - 1 on 1 meeting with priorities and agenda items

If your 1 on 1 is important enough to schedule, it’s important enough for an agenda. To make the meeting more productive and efficient, send the agenda in advance, and make sure your employee has a chance to contribute to the talking points.

Save yourself time by plugging and chugging into this one:

  1. Personal follow-up: How was that vacation? How’s virtual kindergarten going? That new rock-climbing gym you joined?

  2. Priorities: Lay out that big picture vision of your employee’s role in achieving the company’s larger goals and what you would like them to prioritize. You can start small with the agenda items that are most important for the week, then shift to long or mid-term priorities that will help them feel like they are an important part of your organization.

  3. Feedback for your employee: Deliver constructive suggestions. Coach them by giving them advice about how to improve, recognize the things they are doing well, and ask what resources they need from you to continue on an upward path.

  4. Feedback for me?: Model receiving positive or critical feedback by giving your employees a chance to speak up about your management style and if their current project is working for them. Ask follow-up questions and write down what they say so you can evaluate and adjust.

  5. Career aspirations: Invest in your employee’s future by asking where they see their career progressing and how you might be able to assist them in getting there.

  6. Thank you, ma’am: Express appreciation again for the good things your employee is doing. Focus group research shows that employees value verbal appreciation from their boss even more than money! So what do you say? It will vary from person to person. Try to avoid the sweeping generalizations that come across as inauthentic. Instead, focus on the specific things your employee is doing day to day that are helping the team.

This six-point agenda effectively covers the personal, the day-to-day, and the aspirational. It balances delivering the news for room-to-grow with building the good feels between coach and performer. Add this type of 1 on 1 to your playbook and start clocking more big wins.

Want even more ways to recognize and retain your employees? Reach out to our team at Motivosity for more ideas.