When the work from home era started, a joke developed in my house. My wife took note of how the meetings I ran were very structured and to-the-point, and now we joke that if I go to a quiet part of the house for a meeting, I’ll probably be finished before she notices I was even gone.
The jury is still out on whether that’s a strength or a weakness of mine. It’s a skill I developed after spending years bristling at long, open-ended team meetings, and now leads to meetings where I put my talkative nature aside and get right to the point.
The time I try to shift gears and make an exception to this is in one-on-one meetings with team members. While structure is still important, it’s vital to create a space where staff members feel safe sharing their accomplishments, discussing their challenges, and getting the feedback they need to achieve their goals.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot in light of Sharon’s blog post about “finding the blueberries.” She gave us a powerful metaphor for how we can use group meetings to understand the roots of success instead of just discussing the end result. We can use those moments to really understand success and figure out how to replicate successful processes in the future.
It’s vital that we also understand how to find the blueberries in one-on-one meetings as well. For fundraisers who are constantly juggling priorities, this is a chance to help develop a clear understanding of successful processes and drive results.
Here are some ways you can structure your one-on-ones to help staff find the blueberries:
Have an agenda: It should come as no surprise that my first tip is about structure. Everybody should know the priorities going into a meeting and have the chance to gather their thoughts in advance. It’s important to leave some open space for team members to bring up new challenges, but make sure the major issues you want to discuss are spelled out in advance.
Celebrate the wins: We continue to talk a lot about high turnover in the fundraising profession, and a major contributor is the feeling that staff jump from one challenge to the next with no time in between to process. Take time to really celebrate the big accomplishments - and let staff know, in detail, what they’ve done to drive results and how you appreciate their contributions.
Be direct with areas for growth: Just like you need to celebrate success, it’s important to directly address areas for growth. Staff should never leave a meeting feeling unsure of their process and contributions. If a project or task needs improvement, this is a chance to clearly bring that up, create a plan, and make them feel empowered to drive results.
Don’t forget to talk about deadlines: As managers and staff members, we’re all juggling priorities, which makes it easy to miss an important deadline. Part of a good one-on-one is a thorough review of all major deadlines on the horizon. Understanding deadlines is a jumping-off point for managing workflows, delegating tasks, and making sure everything gets completed on time.
Allow staff to bring up their concerns: While it’s critical that a manager provide structure in these meetings, staff need space to bring up any new challenges, concerns, or personal struggles they’re facing. Managers need to be willing to listen and adjust workloads in order to help staff have the best chance to succeed.
Be on time: This feels obvious, right? It always amazes me how often managers will show up late or totally skip out on scheduled one-on-ones. These meetings need to be key touchpoints on your calendar. If they’re required for your staff, they’re required for you as a manager as well.
Thoughtful, deliberate one-on-one meetings are vital for a successful fundraiser. Sadly, this is often overlooked in the fundraising profession. This can be an opportunity for you to empower your staff, understand any obstacles they’re facing, and set them up to achieve their goals.