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Jon Kidwell, a leadership and business coach for nonprofits, breaks down how to build relationships and drive results with weekly meetings.

Leaders know their team needs regular connection and communication. And still, the leader and team members dread the weekly one-on-one (1:1) meetings. Because too often these meetings are wasted. They become either a transfer of the to-do list or an in-person report out. Break free from the flat and uninspired 1:1 meetings. Instead, use them to build relationships and drive results by connecting with people, removing barriers and advancing impact.

When we’re looking to build an effective workout plan to achieve health goals we turn to the FITT principles. FITT is an acronym that stands for frequency, intensity, time and type. And in the same way, these principles help us plan effective 1:1 meetings that provide the connection and communication needed for healthy relationships and results.

Use FITT Principles in Weekly Meetings to Build Relationships and Drive Results

  • Frequency: How often you meet 1:1 with direct reports.
  • Intensity: Consider the person, issues, and initiative target dates.
  • Time: The length of time for each 1:1 meeting.
  • Type: The structure of the meeting intention and agenda.

Because these are principles, they can adapt to specific circumstances and desired outcomes. And still, I recommend a set frequency, time and type. That’s because these are controllable factors in an often unpredictable work environment. And, because organizations move at the speed of trust. Since trust comes from a consistent, healthy relationship over time, one of the best ways to speed this up is to increase those opportunities. I’ve found the following meeting rhythm to be often enough to build strong relationships and drive results, yet quick enough as to not be too overwhelming.

Here are the recommendations for using the FITT principles to build relationships and drive results with weekly meetings.

  • Hold 1:1 meetings with every direct report each week.
  • Choose one day each week and schedule them all on that day.
    • With all of them on the same day it is easier to share information consistently and identify common problems.
  • Schedule each meeting for 30-60 minutes.
    • Since not all team members are the same, the meetings may not be the length. Often, I do 30 minutes for tenured team members. For new team members, 60 minutes has proven to be a good length. Which includes the 1:1 meeting, and about 30 minutes for onboarding, development and some Q&A.
  • The type is structured into three parts. The agenda is the person, problems and progress. Said another way, your goal is to connect personally, remove barriers and advance impact.

Because the type of weekly 1:1 meeting is critically important – even more than the frequency and time – here are some tips and tools to assist you as you lead your weekly 1:1 meetings.

The Type of Structure for People-Centered and Productive Weekly Meetings

Connect Personally: Check in on them and other people first.

People come first. Period. Start the meeting by checking in on them and others as an example of putting people first. This may mean that sometimes you do not get to remove barriers or advance impact. But, the truth is if you skip connecting personally with your team, you don’t get those anyway. Because nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. The best way to connect is to be interested and ask questions instead of sharing stories. Here are some questions to get you started:

  • How are you feeling? Doing?
  • How is everything going with (their name, any name)?
  • What is something I wouldn’t know unless you chose to share it?
  • What is a positive or praiseworthy thing you’d like to share? Personal or work related.

At some point you transition. Maybe it’s natural. Perhaps you find a bridge. Another good transition is to simply ask the next question.

Remove Barriers: Seek out the roadblocks they face and how you can support them.

Do you want to be a rock star servant leader? After connecting with people this is the next step. One characteristic of the world’s best servant leaders is they help people and places achieve their goals. And one of the best ways to do this is by removing barriers and solving problems. CAUTION – Because most of us love this piece of the puzzle it is wise to remember that often people know what to do. Sometimes our job is to assist in organizing those thoughts and actions; and other times, it is to provide advice or step in.

  • What challenges/problems are hindering success?
    • What do you think might be a possible solution?
    • How do you plan to go about it?
  • How can I help?
  • What else?

Here, it’s important not to give up too quickly. For that reason, think about what else may be going on based on your experience and insight. And then ask, “What else?”

Advance Impact: Ask about their progress, priorities and what they plan to accomplish this week.

While you are hosting the meeting, you’re not merely a host. You’re a leader. Most importantly one of your main responsibilities is to influence others to succeed on the shared purpose. And as a result of connecting personally and removing barriers, you have the ability to influence actions on and toward the work that is most important for the mission you and your team aim to achieve.

  • What are your priorities this week? How do they align with (project/goal)?
  • How are you progressing on (project/goal)?
  • What can you commit to accomplishing this week?

Weekly meetings don’t have to be a bore or a waste of time. Consider the FITT. And above all, focus on people, problems and progress. In that order and for the right reasons. When you do you will build healthy relationships and drive amazing results with your team, for your organization and for the community you serve.

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Jon Kidwell

Jon Kidwell is a leadership and business coach for nonprofits. For over 15 years Jon worked in nonprofits, 11 with YMCAs, most recently as VP of Innovation & Operations for the YMCA of Greater Houston. Today, he teaches Organizational Leadership at Concordia University Irvine and coaches mission-driven leaders so they can lead people well, deliver results, and create life-changing impact. Connect with Jon at jonkidwell.com, on LinkedIn, Instagram, or e-mail him at jon@jonkidwell.com.

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