MORE on project

Leadership school: the importance of One to One relationships according to Robertson Hunter Stewart

Taking the time to talk face-to-face with each of your collaborators, so as to understand their difficulties and set new goals, is the best choice a leader can make these days. Robertson Hunter Stewart, a coach with a long managerial experience behind him, also dedicated a book to this theme, entitled “One to One: Managing quality time with individuals for engagement and success”.

A book that is the result of what the author has been doing for years, that is, trying to educate the new generation of leaders and managers:

“I try to prevent others from making the same mistakes that I did in my long managerial career. Because each of us makes mistakes, but we must always try to learn from those made".

There are many mistakes that young managers make today: for example, dealing with relationships with members of their team with collective meetings, which often end up being really not very constructive.

“We often hear from young managers: I will speak to my team. Forgetting that each of them is a unique person. Instead, we should try to spend time getting to know each person. Take for example the aspect of delegating tasks and activities: to do this, it is necessary to understand exactly what skills our collaborators possess and, above all, to understand if they actually want to take on this delegation. Usually in these cases we take it for granted that they want it but that's not always the case. We must always know people's desires and aspirations”.

The importance of one to one

In this sense, the importance of one-to-one interviews would be fundamental. On the contrary, this modality does not always take hold in the company, both for the short time that managers want to devote to relationships with their collaborators and employees, and for the fear of employees, who perhaps expect only the classic "boss".

“In all the big teams I've been to, I've always had to spend time convincing people about the importance of one-to-one meetings. For me, the most important thing was to convince the executive committee that it was extremely important to organize such meetings every single month. The point is always to convince people to put themselves in the place of others: if a manager does not know the conditions of the people of his individual staff, it then happens that, in the case of some problem with the product or production, he does not have really behind the support of his team. In my book I also explain why it is essential that they are formalized and organized at regular intervals. It is true that sometimes in organizations one sees each other individually in front of coffee machines, we talk for a while about work and more and less. All of this is fine, but it also helps to organize something formal, so take the time to listen to your employees and then set goals. Thus the manager has the possibility to understand their human being, their possible problems, etc. Ultimately: without one to one, these things will never come up. Instead, people are in dire need of being listened to”.

The care of relationships

Obviously, the organization of one-to-one interviews is linked to the wider need for leaders to have extreme care in relations with their employees. A need that has been further increased by the pandemic and the advent of technology:

"Often some managers argue that customers are more important than employees, but this is absolutely not the case: if you are a manager you must be interested in "manage" your people, that must be your main interest. And yet, employee satisfaction surveys are underestimated today, while we should be spending more time on them. One of the biggest problems with leadership, which still exists today, is that the people in these roles are not truly trained in management, at least formally, even if maybe they are familiar with a specific domain."

Attention to diversity

Another key issue for a leader these days is attention to the diversity of their team. An aspect that Rob Stewart knows very well, having worked in multinational companies of the caliber of Disney:

“Diversity is not just about different skin colors and cultural differences. It's more than that: age is really an important factor in an organization, for example. Young people generally have a lot of energy and creativity, while older people have more experience; therefore, it is good that there is a balance of this type. That's why diversity is important, without being obsessed with percentages, like 50-50. The important thing is to have different people on your team."

It is true that, as Stewart recalls, when we find ourselves all the same in a team, the work is easier because we tend to always (or almost always) agree. The added value of diversity within a team is therefore that of being able to look at the same thing from different points of view and there is nothing more enriching than this.

The challenges for the younger generation

These and other challenges must face the new generation of managers, who must also face the great technological evolution and a world of work characterized by hybrid work.

One of the difficulties for young leaders is communication, that is, how to be able to do it effectively, despite the technology. Even when having virtual one to one interviews, it is important to have the same principles as when organizing a physical one. We must first of all listen, without interrupting others and waiting for others to finish speaking. This is a great challenge for the younger generation: with new technologies everything has become very fast and action-oriented, forgetting to stop and take the time to think and plan. The continuous change that surrounds us pushes people to be very action oriented, that is, ready and oriented to react to circumstances. But sometimes it is better to think and even take a few steps backwards”.