A conversation with Steve Hayes, Senior Managing Director, Gallagher's Executive Search and Leadership Advisors

As a recipient of regular one-on-one time with my leader Steve Hayes, recently I sat down to ask him about the benefits of prioritizing time with his employees to support overall organizational wellbeing. How does he make it happen, and how can leaders make this practice as part of their leadership styles?

Q: Why do you make time for 'ones-on-ones' with the team?

A: Throughout my career, my favorite leaders have always given me the gift of their time. It takes commitment, but carving out a bit of time in their busy schedules always showed me I'm valued. There was no agenda, just a set amount of time with no distractions and real talk. Through their honesty and vulnerability, we built trust on both sides. In a few cases, this personal attention meant I stayed with a company longer because of the respect I held for those leaders. Remembering that trust and respect ignited in me the desire to build the same dynamic with my own team.

Q: Have you always made one-on-one time with your team a priority?

A: Four years ago, I was looking at my schedule and realized that time with my team wasn't on my calendar. My calendar reveals my priorities, so the fact that time with my team wasn't on my schedule meant I wasn't making them the priority I needed to. I'm only as good as my team—so I began scheduling 30-minute time slots with each of them on a bi-weekly basis. (My team is small, so those with large teams could schedule on a monthly basis.) This time is theirs to share, ask and discuss whatever they wish. The agenda can be work-related; but most of the time, they share updates about their families, hopes, desires and frustrations, as well as general questions about the business.

Q: What have you as a leader gained from one-on-one time with your team?

More than I can mention, but here are a few highlights. First, learning more about each individual allows me to be more sensitive to what each person needs to be a productive team member. I've learned that I can't use a cookie cutter approach to my leadership; rather, I need to meet all members of my team where they are. Second, a byproduct of time and open dialogue is that we gain one another's trust. In turn, since we are more aligned, calibrated and working off a position of increased vulnerability, our performance as a team improves. I wouldn't say coincidentally, but we've enjoyed increased performance, revenue and business growth as a team over the past four years. I believe implementing this piece to the puzzle has helped drive that success.

Q: Any advice for a leader who wants to initiate or improve one-on-one time with staff?

  1. Put it on your calendar and keep it there. Schedule recurring time bi-weekly or monthly so it's consistent. Keep the conversation short--30 minutes; this allows enough time to maintain and build a relationship, but not steal time from your employees' schedules.
  2. Ask questions and don't hesitate to be honest yourself. Ask, what's going on in your world? Any obstacles that are frustrating you that I can make better? How can I serve you better?
  3. Always extend flexibility, patience and grace – this is a valued time on the calendar, not a stressor. If the scheduled time doesn't work on a certain week for your employee, let that person know you are flexible. The same goes for you—if you need to change the date, ask your employee when you can reschedule.
  4. Create a space to meet away from your computer and your phone. Avoid temptations to be distracted. If I was sitting at my desk, I know my eyes would be veering away from my team member halfway through the conversation—each person deserves your full attention.
  5. Have fun and enjoy getting to know who people serve alongside you!

Learn more about working with Steve Hayes and his team to meet your executive search, leadership integration and leadership coaching needs to help your organization face the future with confidence.