Nailing the weekly progress meeting

In a busy office, a multitude of moving parts can make a manager's job difficult. One way to stay on top of your subordinates while making them feel engaged and valuable is the time-tested corporate institution of weekly one-on-ones. Carving a standing window of time (as brief as 15 minutes or as long as an hour) out of your week to check in with your employees can help keep them on task, while you stay abreast of need-to-know information.

New employees and office veterans can both benefit from an open dialogue with their manager, serialized weekly to chart progress and address new items as they come up. Most importantly, establishing candor and open communication can strengthen your professional relationships. Here are a few tips for conducting weeklies with your staff:

Operate from an agenda. Asking your team members to produce an individual agenda for each check-in encourages them to look at their week critically. Each agenda should include standing items for job cornerstones, as well as whatever short-term, project-focused goals an employee has on her plate. Consider the agenda to be a single fluid document that mutates week-to-week, and look out for blind spots. 

Save the agendas. From a managerial perspective, filing the lists away can provide a full view of how an employee is performing on a week-to-week basis. By making notes of important details, the file can serve as a log to chart progress and stagnation in your subordinate's productivity. 

Sandwich your feedback. The "no sandwich" is a staple of business school tacticians, and it can come in handy during your weekly check-ins. By asking questions, cushioning criticism with one or two positive observations and always ending on a good note, your employee will leave your office feeling energized rather than deflated.