7 common 1:1 mistakes 

7 common 1:1 mistakes 

I have had the good fortune to observe and listen in on many managers and leaders run 1:1’s with their team over the years. Some very good and many not so good.

There are two elements that go into an effective 1:1; structure and impact. 
Most feedback I hear focuses on a specific question or a line of thought. In my experience what makes the biggest impact on a 1:1’s effectiveness is to focus on the structure 1st and the impact generally follows.

What follows are the 7 most common mistakes I see in 1:1’s.

1. No review of previous action points 

All too often I see people move straight into the ‘new’ 1:1 without discussing and ensuring the previous action points were completed.
If you don’t care enough to check, why should they bother completing them.
Find out if an action was completed and the outcome; maybe even the learns from completing it. 
When an action hasn’t been completed find out if on reflection it was valid, still is valid and by when and how it will be completed this time.

2. No review of goals/expectation and current reality

Too often I listen to 1:1’s where there is no discussion of the goal/goals that are desired; only a discussion of what’s not working and how do you fix it.

If you don’t look at the goal and what it means to achieve it, how can you know how close or far away you are and why it’s even worth trying. 

When you’re clear on the goal and the current reality; the performance gap is clear and actions can be gauged effectively. You may even need to do less than you’d envisaged. 

3. No discussion of what’s working 

So many of the hours I spend listening to one to ones involves me listening to what isn’t working.

If someone is achieving 10% of a desired outcome or exhibiting a behaviour some of the time; spend some time finding out what enables them to achieve what they are and how they could do even more of it. You might not need to focus on the downward spiral that is ‘why’s it not working’.

4. No discussion of why what’s not working isn’t.

All too often people discuss what’s not working but don’t really get to the nub of why it’s not working. 

Find out what’s getting in the way of something happening. Is it knowledge, resource, attitude, skill or something preventing ‘it’ from becoming a habit. 
Without this root causing; 1:1’s often involve endless cyclical conversations where the same topic is discussed week in, week out with no forward momentum. You don’t want that, do you?

5. No agreement to an effective course of action 

All too often I see managers smile when an action or actions are written down on a page. No matter the quality of the actions or confidence in the action to achieve the desired outcome, the ‘we’ve got something down’ mindset kicks in.

Effective courses of action involve being clear on what you’ll do, when, who with, where, how and why. If these aren’t thought through and pinned down, you only have an inkling of what will be done. Not what Will be done and how it will deliver the desired change.

6. No input from the employee

All too often the 1:1 is driven, explored and explained by the manager. Here the employee is told what they should be achieving, what they are achieving and what they need to do to move forward.

This approach breeds a lack of buy in at best and breeds, at worst, a powerfully debilitating compliance, lack of accountability and develops an inability for the employee to fix their own issues in the absence of the manager.
Working too many hours as a manager and feeling like you need to drive everything; this is a major contributor.

7. No agenda agreed

All to often I’ll arrive, unless prompted, to observe 1:1’s and meeting without a pre agreed and times agenda; or enough time to adequately cover all topics.

An agenda should be agreed prior to the 1:1 with both parties having clarity of exactly what is expected with sufficient time to prep.

When the above isn’t in place meetings  take longer than they need to and half of the time allocated is used to explore the goal, reality, root cause and actions. 

Prior preparation would mean much of this could be completed prior to the 1:1 allowing ratification and checking and testing of the likelihood of success; rather than doing all of the thinking in the 1:1 itself.

So there you have it; the 7 common 1:1 mistakes I see. Can you name more?

Who am I? Stefan Powell…

I am yourleadershipcounsel, a father, husband, part time rock star and passionately bonkers about helping leaders get the most from themselves and their people.

Get in touch today…

If you’d like to experience what working with me is like, get in touch and we’ll see if coaching is right for you. I’d love to speak with you via:

Twitter: @stefanpowell

E-mail: stefan@yourleadershipcounsel.co.uk 

Phone +44 (0) 7736942382


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