When you have chats with your folks, some will be pretty easy and straightforward. But there are a few special circumstances that come up, and it's important to know how to recognize and handle them appropriately. Let's start with one I call...
The Nervous Wreck
Most of your team will become accustomed to meeting with you in your office or in some other one-on-one situation. Your boss, your peers, and your direct reports will expect to meet with you privately as a matter of course. However, if you have managers reporting to you, you will most likely have occasions where you’d like to speak privately with one of their reports.
You need to go out of your way to get them comfortable. First, when you send the meeting invitation, be clear about the purpose. Never schedule a “You and Me” talk with no agenda information! Better yet, before you send the invitation, stop by the guy’s cube and talk for a minute, then let him know that you'll be setting up a time to continue the discussion.
It’s possible that, despite your best efforts, you won’t be able to convince the guy of the innocent nature of your impending meeting. Even if you’re clear about the topic, he might still believe that you're diverting attention from the real reason you want to talk to him—maybe to reprimand him, or even fire him! As soon as he walks through your door, if you believe that he still has some major concern, start off with, “Thanks for coming. This XYZ project really needs our attention.”
Use the same technique anytime you have to call someone in for a discussion without having a chance to set him up for it. When he shows up after your phone request to “come to my office right away,” he’ll be plenty sweaty. Set him at ease as quickly as you can. Use something like, “Hey! Come on in. Nothing bad goin' on here. We just need to talk about the XYZ project.” You will notice an immediate change in demeanor.