Face Time

By Heather Baldwin

When you think of meetings, you probably think of a large table, flip charts and a group of at least five people – and maybe a box of Dunkin’ Donuts. While most meetings certainly would match that vision, don’t forget you can best impact someone’s performance with a much smaller meeting – a one-on-one. “When leaders spend meaningful one-on-one time with team members, they have a chance to positively impact them by communicating vision, encouraging, reinforcing, correcting their course, and affirming them as valuable members of the team,” says Dave Anderson, author of No-Nonsense Leadership (Learn To Lead Press, 2001). Schedule at least one 20- to 25-minute session per week with each of your reps and follow these five steps to make the most of each coaching session, says Anderson.

Ask. Resist the urge to lecture and instead start each session by asking your reps open-ended questions that require thoughtful answers. “Ask what goals they are working on, where they need help, if there are any obstacles holding them back, how you can help them become more successful, and the like,” says Anderson.

Listen. Then sit back and listen to what they have to say. Listen with the intent to understand, not to reply. “Most managers are too ready to prescribe and don’t spend enough time diagnosing,” Anderson cautions. “Therefore, their followers never have confidence in their solutions.” Anderson suggests that 75% of your time should be devoeted to asking questions and listening.

Coach. Once you understand each employee’s needs and concerns, you can suggest, advise and direct. And remember, you don’t have to have all the answers. The best coaches help their reps think for themselves and discover their own answers.

Reinforce. Don’t take your reps’ positive and productive skills and habits for granted. Here’s your opportunity to give positive reinforcement and show them what an important role they play.

Stretch. “Raise the bar. Create focus and urgency,” Anderson concludes. “Give specific tasks and goals to work on. After following the first four steps, you have earned the right to set the bar high and ask more of people. At this point they will be more receptive to hearing it and will respond well to it.”