nurse-manager-one-on-one-meetingIn my experience, many nurse managers don’t spend as much time connecting with their team members as they should.

Research from Knowledge@Wharton shows that team members are more engaged when they feel a strong connection with their leader and the organization, but research also shows that leaders think they connect and communicate far more than their employees perceive they do.

Almost every healthcare leader I know should spend more time connecting, and one-on-one meetings are a great place to start. “One-on-ones are one of the most important productivity tools you have as a manager,” says  Elizabeth Grace Saunders, the author of How to Invest Your Time Like Money. “They are where you can ask strategic questions such as, are we focused on the right things? And from a rapport point of view, they are how you show employees that you value them and care about them.”

In addition, one-on-one meetings are a good time to initiate a collaborative staffing model, discuss career pathing, suggest professional development opportunities, and mentor employees to be more thoughtful about their careers and purpose.

Please stay open-minded about this. I know most of you would love to spend more time on building your employee relationships but the biggest obstacle is not having enough time. Look at your calendar: What could you STOP doing to free up time for connecting one-on-one with members of your team?

Start to notice when you get stuck at your desk or in meetings. Sometimes the payoff for doing non-employee-related activities, like solving a problem at your desk, is more immediate and gratifying. And non-relationship activities are often easier or more comfortable, such as answering emails versus having real conversations with staff.

So many distractions exist in your day, that you could easily not take time to connect with team members individually and still be doing your job. Recognize the temptation to stay in your office to “get work done” and remind yourself how important the connection time is.

How Nurse Managers Can Find the Time for One-on-One Meetings

The best practice for making personal connections is to meet one-on-one with each employee every month. You can’t possibly meet with folks monthly? Many nurse managers have more than 75 team members reporting directly to them across three shifts with 24/7 coverage. I understand.

For you, I recommend two options:

Option 1: Work with your middle layer of leaders (clinical coordinators, full-time charge nurses, patient care coordinators, etc.) and teach them how to conduct monthly one-on-one meetings with team members. This will still allow your employees to make a connection and to feel that they are being heard.

Option 2: Meet with each team member quarterly. That breaks down to approximately two 90-minute time slots weekly for one-on-one meetings. This comes out to six people each week who get your undivided attention and time for 30 minutes. This timing is a minimum frequency for one-on-one meetings to be effective.

If you are going to have regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings, make sure you don’t cancel them for other things that pop up. That’s a sure signal to the employee you were supposed to meet with that he or she isn’t that important — the exact opposite of the message that you’re trying to convey.

So many distractions exist in your day, that you could easily not take time to connect with team members and still be doing your job. Recognize the temptation to stay in your office to “get work done” and remind yourself how important the one-on-one connection time is.

Start today by scheduling meetings. Once you have the meetings on the calendar, you can figure out what to do.

Read more from the Nurse Engagement Toolkit:

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About Vicki Hess, RN, MS, & Talent Symposium 2019 Keynote Speaker

Vicki Hess, RN, is your go-to resource for transforming employee engagement at the individual, department or organization-wide level. As the author of four books, Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), trainer and consultant; Vicki inspires healthcare leaders to take action in a real-world, relatable way. Organizations that implement Vicki's ideas experience increased engagement, productivity, safety, quality, retention, patient satisfaction, creativity and more. Access Vicki’s free tools and resources at