5 Important Conversations To Have With Your Team Members

There are different types of conversations with employees that are essential for leaders. We take a closer look at five of them for you.  What do all types of appraisal interviews have in common? They mostly have two parallel aims: on one hand, it’s about advancing content-related topics, but at the same time also about strengthening the relationship between a leader and his/her employees. In addition, there are some tips on how to prepare well for the various kinds of conversations:

Getting to know each other

Everything begins right at your start as the new leader of the team. This is where the foundation for further cooperation is laid. Especially in the beginning, it is important that your team knows more about you and that you know about each other what is important to you, what motivates you, but also what kind of behaviour drives you up the wall! This post gives you explicit tips for successful get-to-know each other conversations.

Regular 1:1s

1:1s are a way to speak with your team members regularly one on one for 30-60 minutes weekly or every 2 weeks depending on the number of team members and their needs. The focus of the 1:1s is on current content-related topics, but also the exchange on personal issues in order to build trust and facilitate good cooperation. Ideally, the employee prepares topics for the agenda from his/her side and you then add more from your side. Especially if you do virtual 1:1s, it makes sense to have a common repository of topics where decisions and actions can be recorded.

Target conversation

Together with your team member, the target discussion is about defining and recording his/her goals for a certain period of time.

In preparation, ask your team member to think of goals from his/her side, e.g. for next year, next quarter, etc. Higher-level goals such as OKRs for the area can be included there. 

In the conversation, the ball is first in your team member’s court to share his/her ideas for the goals, then it is your turn. Ask what kind of support your team member would need from you to achieve the goals. In the end, write down the defined goals.

Delegation conversation

The goal is to delegate tasks and responsibilities to your team members. To prepare, it is important to get an overview of your own tasks and which ones actually have to be done by you personally or which ones you can delegate – as described in more detail in the post on delegation, an Eisenhower Matrix helps here.

In the interview, the prelude is up to you. Explain to your employee which task you would like to delegate and why (“Today we are talking about task XY. Since I got the impression from your presentation last month that you are ready for the responsibility that comes with task XY, I would like to delegate it to you. The framework is YZ (e.g. what should be the end result, by when?) Within this you feel free to determine how you approach it. Would you be willing to take on this task?”.

If there is still hesitation, you can also ask what your employee needs in order to feel comfortable with the task or to be able to accommodate it in terms of capacity. 

Clear delegation is very important because only when your team member knows what the goal is, you can give constructive feedback in case the outcome is not what you expected. Without clear expectations at the beginning, it is hard to give good feedback at the end!

Feedback conversation

Feedback can be given spontaneously after a situation or at regular fixed intervals (e.g. once a quarter, etc.). It is an exchange about the specific behaviour and the performance of your team member.

In the preparation for a feedback conversation, go through the following six steps for yourself & take notes. It is also important to consider the timing of the feedback. The time should still be close to the situation you want to give feedback on and at the same time, it should be a good time for both sides to talk calmly. More information on this topic can be found in the post on feedback. 

Based on the method of non-violent communication, the following roadmap will help you to feel well prepared and to reach your counterpart with clarity and empathy: 

  • Intention: Start with your intention – why is it important for you to give the feedback?
  • Perception: Which specific behaviour did you perceive? The more specific the better!
  • Effect: Which feelings or thoughts did the behaviour trigger in you or in the team? 
  • Need: Why is it important to you personally? If you share your underlying need, you help the person to understand even better why the behaviour has triggered this feeling or thought in you. 
  • Wish: What is your suggestion or wish for a change in behaviour? You may also want to better understand the person’s behaviour or how it came about. Feel free to ask!
  • Next steps: Decide together on concrete actions for future situations.  

Of course, there are many other types of conversations, such as annual performance review conversations, conflict conversations, development conversations, etc. There too, finding the right balance between the content or the issues and the relationship with the employee promises good conversations that you can master with confidence! 

Would you like to feel even stronger supported in your first leadership role? Check out our free video tutorial “Essentials for first-time leader” and a free checklist for the first 100 days.

Katrin also offers 1:1 coaching for first-time leaders and her Leadership Foundation Programme for a cohort of 6 first-time leaders.

photo by Lucie Greiner