5 steps to better 1:1 conversations


How often do you conduct your 1:1 conversations with your team? And how effective are they?

You may have these every week, or once a year when the appraisal process comes around, or never…

Sadly, all too often in my world I come across organisations where the appraisal process has become over-complicated, or used as a stick/carrot, or not used at all. They have become an annual ‘event’ rather than a weekly / monthly check in.

Having regular and effective 1 to 1 conversations with managers and teams helps us know:

  • what we are aiming for,
  • gather our resources,
  • feel heard,
  • feel empowered,
  • vocalise our ideas and fears, and
  • know whether we are doing a good job.

We all want to know that don’t we?

So here are 5 simple steps to help you feel more confident and hold more effective 1:1 conversations.

  1. Prepare – make sure both you and your team member are prepared in advance. This will help you both be aware of why you are there, what you are aiming to achieve and what evidence you might need in front of you. Good preparation gives you confidence (and prevents poor performance of course!).
  2. Question – ask open questions and keep it about the role, not the individual. By this I mean ask the ‘what’ and ‘how’ questions. Be curious about them, given them an opportunity to shine.
  3. Listen – there’s no point in doing point 2 if you don’t also do point 3! Listen to their response rather than rush to put your point across. You never know, you might not need to if you stay in this area! Stay quiet…
  4. Respond not react – control your reactions; take time to formulate a considered response. You can either make things better or worse. Which would you rather?
  5. Commit to action – Why bother having these if nothing comes of it? You need to be clear what you are both committing to do AND make sure it actually happens. I usually recommend some kind of follow up – ‘by when shall we do this and how will we know if its done…’

During periods of change (which lets face it are more frequent these days) then effective communication is vital. Getting these right is not a ‘nice to do’ any more.

After a recent series of workshops we ran for a management team, the impact on the quality and quantity of their 1:1 conversations both with team members and peers was outstanding. Their belief in themselves improved, their ability to diffuse tensions improved and the business achieved more than it believed possible. More importantly, the culture of support and openness really helped them during a profound time of change.

‘I have held conversations where previously I would have walked away. I have more confidence to discuss individual issues and ask probing questions’

If you get it wrong sometimes, don’t beat yourself up. The more we practise, the better we get.

So if you want to make sure you are practising the right things, or would like some support for your team to take ownership of better quality, coaching led 1 to 1’s and have confidence to approach the more challenging ones, we would be delighted to help.


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