Even if you talk with your team members and have regular check-ins, the quarterly conversations are still a critical part of EOS. They offer a unique opportunity to truly listen to what each individual team member has to say.

According to a fact sheet published by the University of Southern California in 2020, people who haven’t actively developed their listening skills are likely to only understand and remember about half of any conversation they have. Half! After two days have passed, that person’s recall ability drops to less than 25%. And when you’re regularly having conversations with several direct reports? Chances are pretty good that something slips through the cracks.

It’s important for ALL of us to work on being better listeners. Let me share with you two truths to get your attention:

1) People process information FAST.

As humans, we are wired to process information faster than we can receive it. While we can speak 120-200 words a minute, our brain has the capacity to process 500+ words per minute. So what do we do with that extra capacity?

In doing a simple 3-minute listening exercise with dozens of leaders, here is what they tell me happens in their head when they are listening to someone talk to them: “I am thinking about other things, coming up with questions to ask when I get a chance, or thinking of my own story I want to tell.” They all say these thoughts prevent them from really hearing what the other person is sharing.

2) We ask fewer questions as we age.

As we develop from age 3 to 18, our learning focus shifts from asking questions to reading and writing. In Warren Berger’s book A More Beautiful Question, he shares the following graph that shows how peoples’ primary learning tools shift from birth to the age of 18.

Assuming we all follow this curve, what does it look like when you become a leader? Does asking questions suddenly get resurrected as a way we learn from our team? My experience—both personally and professionally as a coach, facilitator and mentor—would say no.

From page 129 of Warren Berger’s
A More Beautiful Question

Listening Better in Quarterly Conversations

Taking this learning into the quarterly conversation, hopefully none of you are saying, “Scott, I’m an excellent listener! I don’t think these quarterly chats are the best use of my time.” If you are, this post will not help you. The most common barrier I hear is, “I have a lot of direct reports. Quarterly conversations can feel like a large time commitment.” But establishing specific times to chat will make you a more effective leader.

So, we’ve established that quarterly conversations are a great time to slow down and actively listen to your team members. I’d like to share three important areas to make sure you cover during that meeting to help you and your team members get the most out of it.

Establish Quarterly Rocks

Rocks aren’t just something the leadership team sets to move the company forward in a strategic direction. They’re vital for each and every team member to advance their professional development and help the company as a whole move toward continued success.

Remember that rocks aren’t simply predetermined goals that leadership assigns to team members. Quarterly one-on-ones are a great opportunity for team members to bring up their own professional desires and establish what they want their rocks to be. As the leader, it’s then your job to determine how their goal can support the overall organization and work with them to establish SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely) rocks for themselves. (Interested in digging into coaching people to what I call SMART-er rocks? Here is a video tutorial to help!)

Review The Accountability Chart

As company needs change, individual roles and responsibilities may evolve to meet rising challenges. And as stressors change, it can be easy for employees to lose sight of certain tasks under their purview. I highly recommend taking time during your quarterly meetings to review each person’s roles and responsibilities on the Accountability Chart, evaluate their effectiveness in accomplishing those roles and responsibilities, and determine if any part of their job description needs updating.

Use the People Analyzer & GWC

While roles and responsibilities may evolve, your organization’s core values likely won’t change much. One-on-ones are a great opportunity to evaluate whether each of your team members are still a good fit within your organization, and the People Analyzer is the perfect tool to do that. It gives both you and the team member the opportunity to get on the same page about how they stack up to company expectations.

It also lays the groundwork for the GWC tool. In addition to their value alignment, when looking at their job, do they Get it, Want it, and have the Capacity to do it? These tools, when used together, can set the stage for an open, honest, productive discussion about their progress.

Make the Most Out of One-on-Ones

To make sure your organization is a productive place, the importance of quarterly check-ins with your employees ensures effective leadership. It builds trust and a strong relationship between supervisor and employee. These meetings create a structure to prepare your organization for the next quarter and provide the time to discuss and evaluate the current quarter.

When you enter each quarterly one-on-one, have these four goals in mind:

  1. Establish a stronger relationship with your team member,
  2. Focus on building greater trust with them,
  3. Encourage them to own their individual performance, and
  4. Establish a clear view of how you can best support them.

By consistently working toward these goals over time, you’ll hopefully start to see incredible progress both in your individual team members and in your organization as a whole.

If you need more guidance on having the most effective one-on-ones with your team members, I’d love to talk about it with you. You’ll find me on LinkedIn, or you’re always welcome to send me an email at scott.patchin@eosworldwide.com. If you’re interested in additional resources, I also have a YouTube channel! I already have 60+ videos uploaded to assist you in your leadership/EOS journey, plus 2-3 new resources uploaded every month. Make sure you subscribe to get the first look at the latest content!

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