Managers know how 1:1 meetings go, they're a necessary part of leading a team. Yet, their mere existence doesn't guarantee that those meetings are yielding the best results. The problem can be the context in which they are developed, the questions that are asked, the frequency in which they're scheduled, or, maybe, the problem is focusing on the problem. When you focus on what already works, the outcomes will flow enormously. This is the principle of Appreciative Inquiry.
Appreciative Inquiry Basics
Appreciative Inquiry is a process of organizational development that approaches the people in a company in order to place its focus on performance. This principle is based on the assumption that companies change according to the types of questions that they ask themselves: those who inquire on problems will only find more and more problems; and those that dig deep into their best qualities will find even better ways to succeed.
According to the Harvard Business School "Appreciative Inquiry is typically thought of as a "soft" strategy used in creating organizational visions, aligning groups, and building cultures. (...) and it can contribute directly to measurable results." You basically need to tap into a company's strengths instead of only focusing on the problems that need solving. By no means does it entail avoiding problems and looking for solutions, it just means that there's a healthy balance between focusing on problems or strengths, and that if the scale tends to tilt towards the strengths, the results will show. It's about building from a positive perspective.
The 4 D's to develop Appreciative Inquiry
Appreciative Inquiry can be thought of as a general concept to go by, or an actual process of four stages to follow. It's usually done at a company-wide level, but if your company is not currently making use of this principle, you might want to put it into practice before you pitch it to your bosses. You can start by applying its four stages into your 1:1 meetings over time, and you can allocate each stage depending on the needs of your collaborators.
This stage is about finding processes that are running smoothly. Finding the best of what's available. You can use your 1:1 to ask your individual contributor what they think their strengths are, but you can also offer your vision based on observation, you can tell them what shows from their work. Knowing that something that they are doing is being noticed, will only make them stronger and want to excel at this task/skill and even find new challenges to keep getting better.
Here is where you visualize what could work in the future when you dream of it. You can focus on what you know you can do well now and imagine how that can amplify in the future. As a manager, you can use your 1:1 to motivate your individual contributor within their career path, show them what's available for them, perhaps you can show them possibilities that they didn't even know existed.
This is about planning and prioritizing processes that could work well in the future. Your individual contributor might have several paths in mind within the company, as a leader you can guide them towards what's best both for the company and for your collaborator's future. It's about finding the best stepping stones for their goal. It's also about making sure that they have the correct tools and are able to develop the right skill set to perform their tasks.
This last stage focuses on executing the dream and the design. After all positive aspects have been laid out on how to maximize the positive aspects of your collaborator's contributions to the company, it's time to execute. Use your meeting to talk out the possible paths of execution, how you can serve as a bridge to help your collaborators reach their destiny.
The doors to successful 1:1s won't open themselves
This strategy can prove to be successful if you have effective 1:1 meetings. One key element for that is that both parties are open to understand their emotions. Taking advantage of available tools like Talkit to develop self-awareness for you and your team combined with the principles of Combining Appreciative inquiry along with Talkit is definitely an innovative way of approaching and exploring these issues. It's a bold move and a brave choice. After all, it might be quite difficult for a person to know what they want or need until they consciously and consistently tap into their emotions. And, as a manager, you can have a broader view of what general emotions are looming over your team and get better visibility in order to do what's best for the team. Be a groundbreaking leader and let us know how it went!