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Jun 26

Don’t make 1v1’s it a tick box exercise. It’s time to connect!

About 8 years ago I was introduced to the concept of 1v1s as a technique to allow a manager and report connect on a regular basis. For me it was a pretty neat concept and one I had never come across in my 15 years in tech. Perhaps I was just in the wrong jobs? 🙂

So I fully embraced it and went into it being told the format was 10mins of my time, 10mins for manager and 10mins for general chat. In my own time I could talk about anything I wanted. However what I found was this was a hard framework to follow and invariably disintegrated to a mostly just myself talk about my problems with work or something else. Some people would say that this is something that my manager and me should have sorted out and we needed to stick to the framework this 10,10,10 suggested. But that never happened.

When I started getting into a people lead role, I first tried doing this method as well. I would allow my reports to talk, I’d take notes and listen and then I would have my say. However often I would not have much to say, and my conversations would feel very structured and formal. So after a while
I decided to approach my 1v1s in a different manner and treat them as an informal, lets chat exercise. To help with this I found that doing this chat in an environment which encouraged that kind of communication really helped. For me this meant in summer time we would go for a 20min walk around our area. We were lucky enough to have a countryside to walk in.

I found this approach both relaxing and less draining. Often talks would just take on a very non work related aspect, talking about anything from the weather, to what we are seeing to what we have been up-to. Being away from that work environment removed any implicit pressure that we needed to talk about work, or this was a reporting situation between a manager and a report (which I never wanted it to be). Sometimes we couldn’t walk. Sometimes it was around a coffee or on coaches outside of our office. But when possible I always tried to get away from the office meeting room whenever I could to try and foster this relaxed general conversation aspect.

But I have found challenges. It can be great to take notes so that we can refer back to something later on. Or a topic I really wanted to chat about, sometimes I would forget and find I got to the end of our time and never covered it. I’m getting better at that however. Sometimes I might just take a little note that I reach into my pocket to remind myself, must cover that idea! Or if I need to record something I always make sure I have at least 5-10mins after the talk to make a note on my pc of the conversation for later
referral.

1v1s, or O3 as I like to call them, for me is a chance to just have a chat. This may include feedback coaching, talking about work concerns, or just a general how’s life going. It’s
important to me to make sure that the person I’m chatting with knows I’m here for them to talk about anything they wish. But in saying that, I almost always remind them that
they do not have to wait to our catch-ups to bring up a troubling topic. I find it a failure on my part if someone had something on their mind and waited a whole week before they
approached me about it. The more open and welcoming my door (teams, slack, zoom) is, the more people can hopefully get things off their chest when they need to and not let it linger.

Alternatively I try to live by this approach the other way. Don’t let a feedback topic linger. Try to address or communicate it as close to the event as possible. Positive and build-on feedback I find it’s best to do this as quickly as possible. For growth or work-on feedback sometimes it may wish to cool a fraction and the appropriate approach considered so waiting a day in this case is not such a bad thing.

All in all, I hope to continue this approach in O3s. I want the people I work with who invariably are smarter than me to have a great mechanism to talk, but have the freedom and empowerment to go about their work producing great solutions and feeling great about what they do. Lets not make 1v1s a chore and box to tick. Lets not feel you have to follow a framework. Focus on the outcome you are trying to achieve and go with the technique (or it has to be a framework use it) to accomplish this. If it becomes a tick box exercise, I can guarantee you the people you talk with will know and any trust or honesty you might hope to get out of them will quickly fade or be non-existent.

Make O3s a chance to connect and focus on the outcome not the exercise itself!

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