Actions to take: Schedule one-on-ones with your employees weekly.
To be a truly effective boss, the most important thing you can do is build a trusting relationship with each employee. By far the easiest way to do that is through routine one-on-one meetings. Better-boss.com recommends that those meetings are scheduled, 30 minutes, weekly, and rarely missed, with the first half of the meeting spent on whatever they want to discuss and the second half for whatever you want to discuss.
When I say, "the things you do as part of your job," what tasks come to mind? Take 30 seconds and make a quick list. Now review the list you made. Unless you have a project-based job that moves in cycles, I'll bet everything on that list is something you do every week.
The things we do every week are the things consider "part of my job." Anything done less frequently is not in our routine. We mentally categorize it somewhere else. It's an occasional duty, and we approach it one of two ways. Either the task is a special project that we spend time perfecting, or it is an annoying distraction from our "real" work.
For one-on-ones to be effective, they have to be part of the real work. The premise of one-on-ones as described in this blog is that they foster a relationship where both manager and employee feel comfortable talking with each other about anything relevant to the job. You will never get to that place if your employees (or you) think of these meetings as either more important or less important than their usual tasks. The meeting has to be one of those tasks.
We must do everything in our power to make one-on-ones feel normal, to feel like just part of the routine. This is the major reason why we schedule them every week. By scheduling them weekly, they become "part of the job." Anything less frequent, and you have very little chance of getting past the awkwardness that makes the meeting feel like a special event.
What makes the weekly frequency so special? There isn't any magic to it. It just happens to be the case that people build their lives around the week. The week starts and ends with a weekend. It is easy to answer the question "What have you got planned this week?" off the top of our heads. We have to consult a calendar to answer "What is on your to-do list in two weeks?"
Everything we've said here about the employee is also true for the boss. If you set up one-on-ones less frequently than weekly, you will consider them a special project or an annoying burden, you will have trouble getting past the awkwardness, you will never feel quite like they are part of the routine.
Average bosses decide one-on-one frequency based on how much "stuff" there is to discuss. The meetings inevitably get less and less frequent because neither boss nor employee manages to integrate them into the routine. Better bosses understand that, by scheduling them weekly, the routine makes them valuable. The topics will build naturally from one week to the next. Both employee and boss will fall into a rhythm that encourages project discussion, feedback and advice, exploring questions, and generally checking in with each other.