How to Solve Problems in a One-on-One: Part VI

Problem-Solving Guide Part 6

You finally did it! All necessary information has been collected, and both of you were able to define how a solution to the problem could look like. Excellent job! The final but most important steps are about to come: Without execution, everything the two of you just achieved might be worth nothing. Now it is time to clarify expectations and plan follow-up meetings.

Expectation Management

What is the goal, and who does what until when? Writing down the goals, planned actions that serve the goal, owners, and due dates clarify the situation. Clean expectation management into both directions, the employee and the lead provide clarity and security.

Creating a list with action points:

  1. Owner: Who does what?
  2. Due date (if possible): When should the goal be reached?

Writing this down has two effects: It clarifies responsibilities and expectations for both sides. Moreover, both sides are accountable for not reaching their goals, but they are also protected against implicit goals that were not explicitly verbalized but somehow expected between the lines. Years ago, during my Ph.D. I had a working student who came late in 90% of the cases. I addressed the topic during a One-on-One, and we agreed on several action points. Two of them were that she promised to be punctual from now on and that she would send me a message if she was delayed. To my disappointment, she continued to come late but started to write to me each time. I observed the situation for a couple of days but then decided to confront her with the situation — we had an agreement, right?. She was surprised: She thought that coming late would be fine if she texted me. It turned out that my message was clear, but I hadn’t been able to define clear actions. Writing this down would have been an enormous help because I would have seen what was missing.

Depending on the complexity and topic of the problem, you should schedule a follow-up meeting to monitor the progress and to check if both sides are still on the right track.

Relevance of Follow-Ups

Your work didn’t end with the definition of the action plan. It is important that you check the progress during the next weeks in order to see if everything is working as planned. A missing follow-up can have the same effect as if the initial One-on-One has never happened. The goal of these follow-ups is not only to check but also to adapt the plan. Some actions might not have worked out as planned because of the lack of resources or the schedule of another person.

The amount of and the period between the follow-ups depends on the urgency and relevance of the topic. I usually pick one week after the initial meeting and a second one another two weeks later. However, this topic is very individual

Example

Goals:

  1. Enable professional and personal growth by the following main actions
  2. Teaching non-critical but time-intensive tasks to working-students (personal growth)
  3. Picking up tasks from the product team (professional growth)
  4. Keep critical/important task (high relevance to the team)

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