Elevating team performance is one of the biggest challenges in business.

You can recruit the right people, you can retain great talent, but if you’re not driving the right performance, it doesn’t matter!

As a leader, nothing is more frustrating than knowing your team is capable of greater performance but not quite delivering.

Unfortunately, unlocking that potential is anything but easy.

One-on-one conversations are key to elevating team performance. In this blog post, I’ll cover why these conversations are so important and how you can leverage them for best results.

But first, I have to cover a key point about leadership and teams…

Leadership Isn’t a Team Sport – It’s a One-on-One Sport!

In my leadership classes, I always say that leadership isn’t a team sport…it’s a one-on-one sport.

The key difference between a true TEAM and a group of people working at the same company is the relationships.

A team cares about one another. They want to personally succeed, but they also want to see their team members succeed. They push one another to grow, and they offer each other support when needed. They’re not just showing up to do their job and go home.

These relationships are built on a 1:1 level, and it all starts with the leader! If we want a group of people to function as a team, it’s our responsibility as leaders to build those relationships first and create a team-oriented environment.

You can’t build relationships without giving someone your personal attention. So if you’re serious about elevating team performance, it starts with 1:1 conversations.

Elevating Team Performance Through Stronger Relationships

So why are 1:1s so necessary to building stronger relationships?

1:1s are necessary for understanding your team. The only way to learn what motivates your people, learn where they are struggling, and really understand them as individuals is through 1:1s.

Many people are afraid to open up about these topics in group discussions. Besides, in a group discussion, you can’t give any one person your full attention.

In a 1:1 conversation, you have the opportunity to ask follow-up questions to truly get to know someone.

These conversations are your chance to demonstrate to your teams that you really do care about them, their growth and their personal goals. It’s a dedicated block of time to discuss their personal goals and talk about how you two can work together to achieve those goals.

The best leaders focus 1:1 conversations on how the leader and the team member can work together toward the team members’ personal goals and their shared objectives.

By guiding a team member toward their own growth, you’re also elevating team performance and achieving better results.

So How Can You Leverage 1:1s for Elevating Team Performance?

So on a practical level, how do you use these conversations for elevating team performance?

A great 1:1 is more than just catching up and talking about how work is going.

In your initial 1:1s, it’s vital that you work with the team member to define their goals. Many people don’t have goals, or will need help clarifying them.

I’ve had team members tell me they didn’t know because no one had ever asked!

Use SMART goals – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic (or Relevant), and Time-Bound.

Another important step is to define WHY the goal is personally important to the team member. Earning a raise is great. But a team member will be far more motivated to earn that raise if they spell out why it matters to them. It could be saving for a college fund, saving money for a down payment, etc.

The point is that whether these goals are personal or more focused on work, the team member knows why it’s important to them.

As time goes on, your focus should shift toward coaching until the individual achieves that goal. Use coaching techniques and ask questions to help them brainstorm solutions to the challenges they face.

When the team member has achieved their goals, you can start the process anew by defining new goals!

There’s more to 1:1s, but this is a rough guide to how you can get started using 1:1s for elevating team performance.

Elevating Team Performance Doesn’t Mean Making People Happy

I’ll close with one important leadership lesson…elevating team performance doesn’t mean making people happy.

Your job as a leader isn’t to make anyone happy or content. Your job is to make your people BETTER.

There are times when you’ll need to push someone out of their comfort zone. There are times when you’ll need to nudge your people to do things that are uncomfortable, challenging and frustrating!

Growth is hard and nothing worthwhile in life is easy…but in the end it’s always worth it, and your people will be grateful for it!