I was recently talking with some close friends at dinner about their experiences with what actually happened behind their manager’s closed door.  The answers were varied, if not surprising, and will have an impact on engagement, productivity and retention.

One person indicated that her best managers always had office hours, reminiscent of her college days.  She felt that she always knew that she would be heard at some predictable point and could escalate urgent matters as needed.  Her boss was an active partner in managing up and engagement.  She felt validated.

Another person lamented the lack of predicable interaction with his boss.  His experience was quite different.  Not only did he feel invalidated, at times he felt almost invisible.  This lack of predictable interaction made it challenging to manage up, to read his boss, and to know what and when to escalate.

So, what should happen behind the Manager’s closed door and when?

We advocate for Well-Run 1:1 Meetings:  15- 30 minutes in duration and held at least once a month, (weekly for new hires.)  By well-run, we mean meaningful interaction with somebody who is actively present and actively participating.  This means no phone, no computer, no texting, and no interruptions.  Done well, this builds a trust bridge for great working relationships.  Here is the model used with many of our clients.

1:1 meetings (30 min max) once a month (and ad-hoc as needed).  The main purpose is to Listen, Understand and Exchange Information about:

1.      Assignments / Work-load Balance -  what’s working well, what’s not, distractions

2.      Developmental Plans / Activities / Training / Tools - Internal Customers, Continuing Education Certifications / Degrees, Shadowing, Cross Training, Networking, Tools / Technology needed

3.      Recognition / Coaching / Staff Feedback- Shared Successes, Constructive Thought Partnering

4.      Feedback for Leader - Things leaders may not see (blind spot) or need help on

5.      Other Satisfiers / Dis-satisfiers – Job enrichment ideas, ergonomics, environmental, etc

6.      Continuous Improvement / Innovation– As you drill into new /changed responsibilities

When done with authenticity, Well-Run 1:1 Meetings set up the foundation for performance expectations and directly address any issues in the employee’s world.  This, in turn, makes the performance review almost an afterthought, because you both have already sought out what really matters.

Please be on the look-out for other tools in future blogs as we employ Behind the Manager’s Closed Door to address specific things like;  coaching / mentoring skill development, 1:1 for recognition, 1:1 for lack of performance, 1:1 for formal discipline, and 1:1 for removing drama.