You may own and operate a small business. But if you employ people, there’s no reason why they should be treated like small people, ignored, just told what to do, undeveloped.
All businesses should treat their team with respect and just that – as “team” members, where everyone is aware of the rules of the game and where the goals are, and one where everyone pulls together and help weaker team members, using each person’s individual strengths for the good of the whole.
Larger businesses with, maybe, more resources spend time in the “People and Culture” Divisions, developing people, and making sure that everyone is on the same page about the company’s Mission, Vision, and Values.
But here’s the thing – even as a small business, you can do the same.
If you want to create an effective team culture, your team members need to know more than their basic responsibilities. In order to create a high-performing team, and one where staff turnover is kept low, your team members need to understand and share your vision, and feel that it fits in with their own career vision. You need to create a safe place for development, where there are no mistakes but only learning opportunities where your team members can communicate openly and honestly about their work and performance.
You need to find the right approach to use if you want your people this engaged in the business.
This approach can vary depending on the type of culture you have created in the business, and on the type of people you employ. However, you can find your right approach by using effective one-on-one meetings that are easily structured, and that will mean something valuable to them because they get value from those meetings.
Effective staff development meetings are an excellent tool to implement to help you create a team culture and find the best approach to engaging your people at work.
How do you start to implement these staff development meetings?
First, get clear on what these meetings will be for, They are:
- They are a meeting to discuss work, resolve any conflicts of time or work or between people, solve problems that have arisen for the team member at work, and plan their work or projects.
- They are to ensure that your team members are listened to and feel empowered.
- They are the time to agree on goals, priorities and measurements, clarify what’s expected of them, understand the results required, and follow up on previous agreements to review progress.
- Finally, they are coaching sessions, helping them develop as skilled employees.
Next, decide on the regular frequency of these one-to-one staff development meetings. That frequency will depend on the numbers you have, as well as the organisational structure you have implemented. If you have 10 staff all reporting to you, then regular weekly one-to-one meetings are probably too frequent and once a month or quarter is better. If you are highly structured with management teams and people who report to managers, regular weekly meetings may be the right frequency.
The key is to ensure that the frequency is right to provide consistency, yet not so frequent as to be meaningless, as to create a feeling of “oh, here we are again.”
Schedule your regular meetings at least 3 to 4 months ahead and make sure you are consistent in renewing those 3 to 4-month blocks. In the meantime, you can save time, because once these regular meetings are scheduled and taking place, you can cancel all the other ad-hoc and unnecessary meetings that are taking place as well.
You need to be consistent, committed, and attentive.
You need to exercise consistency by scheduling the regular meetings at a regular time and frequency, and provide and stick to a set agenda for discussion. If you miss a meeting because of an unpredictable event, immediately schedule a replacement date.
You need to show commitment by being consistent, and when you attend those meetings, you need to show that you are committed to the process by negotiating commitments from them as well. Obviously, you need to commit to any agreements and see them through.
And you need to be attentive at these meetings. Make sure they are held at an appropriate place that is quiet and free from interruption. Put your phones on silent or switch them off. Listen to what they say, ask to understand their position and really find out what they think or what’s going on.
When you set up these meetings, make sure that your team member knows what is expected of them. Tell them to:-
- Be as committed to the process as you are. Ask them to show up on time and prepared, and to agree to be committed to any decisions you make together.
- Be open and honest. Ensure there are no adverse effects if they tell you the bad along with the good – that’s often a good clue on how to improve the business.
- Don’t start with excuses. Provide real updates on their work, not coloured by excuses. Identify issues before they become problems. Once both parties are aware of the situation, both can work together to improve – make improvement a shared responsibility.
- Ask questions. You don’t know what they don’t know so allow them to ask questions that you can inform them about what’s happening or how to do something – discuss real issues and make it an opportunity to learn and improve.
Finally, publish a set agenda that you will go through in each meeting. It’s not how complicated the agenda is, it’s about how the structure can lead to a real discussion:
- Review the role you intend to take and remind them of the role you’d like them to take in this meeting.
- Provide some key areas that have arisen since the last meeting you’d like to discuss during this meeting.
- Ask them if they have any logistical issues they’d like to discuss
- Review their current work and projects.
- Discuss the progress of their development and career goals.
- Summarise agreements – what, when, how.
The reason these regular, open and honest meetings work is that the team members become part of the solution.
Every human being needs to feel valued. Your team members will be enhanced in their work lives by feeling they are successful in their work and that they know that what they is helping “their” business grow as well as helping their career. We find that businesses who use this approach find their team members feel they can contribute and share ideas, that the workplace is a safe environment where they can learn from mistakes and grow, that they become excited to come to work, and that they believe their work helps them to achieve their career and life goals.
Regular staff development meetings will create positive engagement in the team and will motivate individuals to do better and to look for ways to self-develop.
Regular staff development meetings give your team members a predictable and scheduled time to discuss their successes, problems, concerns and suggestions — and give you the opportunity to assess your team members’ performance and check out any undeserved assumptions you may have about them.
Although it seems to be against logic, frequent, regular staff development meetings will actually free up your time!
These meetings will put all those little conversations you have throughout the day into structured, scheduled, focused one-to-one discussions. As big issues are dealt with, team members learn to deal with their own small issues and there will be fewer ad-hoc meetings and drop-ins to interrupt your day. In time, as the team develop themselves, they will start to make their own decisions, thus freeing up your own time to work on the business rather than solving problems in the business.
Effective meetings like the ones I’ve described above are purpose-driven rather than meandering and they will move you toward the motivating workplace that you envision.