Without a watch I can tell you—within about 3 minutes or so—when 1 hour has elapsed.
No really, I can.
I can do this little parlor trick because over the past 15 years of my life I have had to learn how to use 60 minutes of time in the most effective way possible.
I have learned this because, as a Pastor and a leader, one of the most valuable tools I have in my little bag of rusty tools is the one-on-one meeting with volunteers, and this usually happens (in my context at least) over lunch. I don’t have a staff that I can call into a conference room and work things out over a 3 hour meeting. Typically, I have 50-55 minutes to work with.
And I need to know (though God often intervenes and changes my agenda) what I’m doing.
As I was thinking about this, I approach my one-on-one meetings in four distinct ways. Sometimes they bleed into each other and overlap, but by and large these are the “buckets” I place meetings in.
- The Directive Meeting. Sometimes I—or my team—needs something done (or I need someone to stop doing something). These meetings are driven by a sense of strategic need and values. A directive meeting demands that you know—as precisely as possible—what it is you’re going to ask. Moreover, you should be able to communicate that somehow within one to three sentences. It’s also helpful to understand the why behind this directive: what is the value or need that is driving this request?
- The Counseling or Pastoral Meeting. I’m not the best counsellor in the world, but nevertheless I recognize that this is a non-negotiable part of my job, so I try to do my best. The pastoral meeting is sometimes reactive (in other words, a response to a team member’s request to meet) and sometimes proactive or even confrontational (driven by an awareness or observation of a behavior). I tend to take the approach that people in these situations are hurting, even if they’re not aware of it. Therefore, I try to establish a warm, listening environment, and give plenty of space to talk. There may not be a firm “result” to these meetings, but my overall approach and paradigm is driven by something Brennan Manning wrote. “You are going to leave people feeling a little better or a little worse. You’re going to affirm or deprive them, but there’ll be no neutral exchange.” That may be over-simplifiying things just a bit, but for me that works. That quote establishes the playing ground for me.
- The Coaching Meeting. The coaching meeting is driven by a firm agenda and a specific approach. “Coaching” refers to a method of helping people achieve specific goals within a specific time period. Unlike the directive meeting, most of the time the individual—not me—establishes the goals that I’ll coach them through. In my context, it can be the desire to pray more, or to write more, or to practice more. Also in contrast to the directive meeting, coaching is built on the idea that the answers and solutions lie within the individual, not the coach. It’s my job to establish a framework and to provide some accountability. Lastly, it’s time-bound, meaning a coaching relationship is meant to only last for a specific amount of time and a specific project (if you want to know more about coaching, you can start exploring it here).
- The “Being” Meeting. Sometimes the greatest gift you can give your team members is the gift of your presence. Without an agenda. Sometimes you need to put away the lists and set aside the values and simply value them as human beings. Not surprisingly, for many of us these meetings are the most difficult ones to schedule and execute, but they can also reap the heaviest benefit. People (including myself) have a need to know that they are valuable far beyond their gifts and talents, and eating a meal together with no agenda is a great way to cultivate that reality in their spirit.
These are my meeting “buckets”; again, sometimes the edges are fuzzy, and sometimes my agenda and plans get disrupted. But I still make an intentional decision on how I approach my time together with my people. It values their time and efforts, and provides a framework and environment within which God works. Maybe it goes without saying, but the last tool to use when it comes to one-on-one meetings is to know what kind of meeting you are going into.
If you’re in leadership, do you have one-on-one “buckets” or categories that you use? Feel free to share them here.