Bring the power of progress into your one-to-one meetings

As a leader, it’s up to you to help connect the dots between team members’ wins and the value their work provides to your company and customers. In the process, not only will your team members experience satisfaction, their output will improve as well. And that’s progress everyone can feel good about.

Acknowledging team success via a “Friday Wins Meeting” like this one at content marketing tech firm Percolate has become standard practice at many companies. Many teams also informally share wins at their daily huddle meetings.

There’s something exciting about celebrating a win with members of your team that can start the day off right, or wraps up an especially busy week.

Beyond the momentary buzz that celebration provides, focus on success aids in a broader goal: enhanced performance. The late social psychologist Kathryn Cramer coined the phrase “Asset-Based Thinking” in which she encouraged people to focus on what’s going right in their world, rather than focusing solely on problems that need fixing. When leaders shine the light on what’s working, it opens up the potential for even bigger gains.

In addition to group settings, there’s another way you can use the idea of “wins” in your leadership role: during one-to-one meetings. Here’s an example from my home life. Every Sunday night, I check in with my 17-year-old son, who will soon start the college application process. We review the week’s progress and set goals for the upcoming week. At the start of each meeting, he lists three wins (he defines what constitutes a “win”) for his week and we talk about it.

This process works well because:

  • It starts the meeting on a positive note
  • Incremental success is recognized, which maintains momentum as he works towards larger goals
  • He decides what serves as a win; therefore it’s more meaningful to him
  • It’s part of an established process that perpetuates framing of activities in terms of success
  • Although he dislikes public praise, my introverted son is comfortable sharing his wins in a one-to-one setting

Although I stumbled into this “wins” process on my own, it turns out that research backs up my hunch that a positive focus aids in goal achievement. In the Harvard Business Review article “The Power of Small Wins,” researchers Teresa Amabile and Steven J. Kramer describe the “progress principle” — the human desire to feel that one is making progress on work that matters.

“Whether they are trying to solve a major scientific mystery or simply produce a high-quality product or service, everyday progress—even a small win—can make all the difference in how [workers] feel and perform,” the authors write. Leaders who act as “nourishers” providing respect, encouragement and recognition are those best poised to help their team members capitalize on their daily (or weekly) wins.

If your one-to-one meetings with staffers have become bogged down in detailed status updates and problem-solving, consider changing up the agenda. Ask your team members to start the next meeting with a list of two or three wins. Listen carefully and without judgement. Assure them that you aren’t looking for huge, blue ribbon achievements. If you continue this process for a while, you’ll discover precisely what each of your employees finds worthy and rewarding.

As Amabile and Stevens point out, their progress principle only works if people feel that their work is meaningful. Luckily, “meaningful” doesn’t have to be “life-altering.”

“Meaning can be as simple as making a useful and high-quality product for a customer or providing a genuine service for a community,” they explain.

As a leader, it’s up to you to help connect the dots between team members’ wins and the value their work provides to your company and customers. In the process, not only will your team members experience satisfaction, their output will improve as well. And that’s progress everyone can feel good about.

Jennifer V. Miller is a freelance writer and leadership development consultant. She helps business professionals lead themselves and others towards greater career success. Read more about leadership and AI on her blog The People Equation from the post, “7 Reasons Leaders Should Focus on Developing Employee Soft Skills.”

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