I would suggest having a quarterly one-on-one meeting with each of your direct reports. In each of these meetings address six key questions. Ideally, each question will result in a two-way dialogue that helps clarify priorities, ensures alignment, and promotes mutual understanding:
1. Where are we going? As the manager, share your views on key priorities for the larger organization. Then ask for your direct report’s views. This dialogue will help ensure alignment between your views and her views on what really matters.
2. Where are you going? Give your views on where this direct report (and her part of the business) should be headed. Then ask for her views on the desired direction. This dialogue will help ensure alignment between your management of the larger organization and her management of her part of your organization.
3. What are you doing well? Share your views on the direct report’s key achievements. Then ask her to share her perceptions on what she is doing well. Sometimes our lack of recognition is not a function of not caring – it is a function of not understanding achievements from the other person’s perspective. By asking, “What do you think that you are doing well?” we can get their perspectives.
4. What changes can lead to improvement? Share your ideas on how more progress can be made in the future – then ask for her ideas. Be open to the possibility that her ideas may be more useful than yours.
5. How can I help? Ask for ideas on how you can better help her achieve agreed upon goals. If you want to be a great coach, this question will help.
6. What suggestions do you have for me? Ask for her ideas on changes that you can make to become a more effective manager. If you want her to focus on continuous improvement, you can lead by example.
In between each quarterly “six questions” dialogue, establish your mutual responsibility for continued alignment. Let her be responsible for immediately contacting you if she is ever uncertain about priorities or needs feedback. You be responsible for contacting her, if the business situation changes and you need to re-set priorities.
I have helped four different CEOs (and many other managers) implement this process. The results produced by this simple dialogue are fantastic.