· 4 mins · Productive Meetings

How to have an effective one-on-one with a chatty employee

We’ve all been there: your calendar is jam-packed with meetings and looming deadlines. You see you have an employee one-on-one…

Avatar of Sharon Moorhouse Sharon Moorhouse

We’ve all been there: your calendar is jam-packed with meetings and looming deadlines. You see you have an employee one-on-one coming up…and you feel your heart sink just a little.

The one-on-one is with your most engaged, enthusiastic…and chattiest team member.

You just know your one-on-one is going to go long.

Don’t get me wrong: I love ❤️ my chatty employees (come to think of it, I was a chatty employee earlier in my career!). It feels great to see our meeting agenda fill up ahead of time, and have such free-flowing conversations. But, when you run over time every single week, and frequently leave the meeting with more than half the agenda items untouched, it’s not the effective one-on-one you were hoping for.

So what do you do?

Candidly share some feedback about timekeeping and get on to your next meeting? Problem solved, right? 🤷‍♂️

Well, maybe not.

Getting your team to trust you enough to communicate openly and honestly with you is a difficult and slow process. Poorly-delivered feedback that criticizes their communication style can undo all your hard work in a flash. Say the wrong thing, and you’ll also be saying goodbye to all that energy and enthusiasm your chatty employee brings to the conversation. And that’s not the goal. The goal is more effective one-on-one meetings.

Here’s how to have an effective one-on-one with your chattiest employees.

Step 1: Think about “The Why” 🤔

Before you share any feedback, ask yourself: why am I sharing it? Or, in other words, what is the damage of NOT sharing it?

In this situation, I can think of a few reasons…

You need to be punctual for other meetings – and so do they 

Letting them ramble for 20 minutes before you even get to the first item on your 30-minute one-on-one meeting agenda means you’ll definitely run long – and throw off both your schedules as a result. It’s your job to address that.

You’ll miss the really important stuff 

There will be significant or time-sensitive items on your agenda from time to time, and missing those come at a price. Rushing through these items at the end (or missing them altogether) means you risk missing important details or red flags that could severely impact your employee’s performance or morale.

If they’re running over in meetings with you, they’re probably doing the same in other meetings, too

This is damaging to the productivity of your company, not to mention damaging the employee’s professional reputation. People should be excited to meet with this energetic and passionate employee – not dreading it. This is an opportunity to coach them on their overall communication style and self awareness.

There are likely plenty more. So, the damage of NOT sharing the feedback is obvious. It’s time to prepare for a difficult conversation.

Step 2: Talk to your employee 💬

Now that you have a sense of why it’s important to address this issue with your employee, you need to bite the bullet and actually have the conversation. These types of chats are never easy, but here are three tips to help it go as smoothly as possible.

Explain “The Why”

As with any other difficult conversation, context is key. Explaining the motivation behind constructive feedback makes it a significantly easier message to receive.

You’ve already taken the time to think about why this is a worthwhile conversation to have – so share that information with them. Explain the impact the current situation has on them, on you, and on your colleagues. They likely don’t realize the impact they’re having on the team – least of all on their own reputation. So by starting the conversation there, you’ll help them see that you’re truly in their corner and want to work with them to make improvements.

Take ownership for your portion of the blame, too

This will help to soften the blow. Admit that you’ve also been guilty of not sticking to the agenda as diligently as you could have, because you’ve been enjoying the wonderful free-flowing conversations you’ve been having. There have been two people in these less-than-efficient one-on-ones. By sharing that, you create a shared goal for you both, versus a stern mandate for them.

Involve them in the solution

Rather than arriving to the meeting with tough feedback AND a strict new set of rules of engagement, ask them to get involved. After all, this is their one-on-one –  it should be their meeting to own and drive.

Agree to each bring three “time keeping tactic” ideas to your next meeting, and talk about which ones to try. And have fun with it! Set a timer with a funny alarm sound to alert you when you’ve got 10 minutes left. Or, agree to a celebratory one-on-one at your favourite coffee spot once you’ve hit four weeks in a row of ending right on time.

Delivered the right way, feedback like this will do a lot. It will make for more effective one-on-ones, strengthen the relationship between you and your employee, and also help them grow and improve. 🙌


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