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Hi there! I'm a new manager who subscribed to the podcast and listened to the Manger Tools Basics on the Trinity and One on Ones, but one thing that's not covered is if your directs don't talk enough to fill up their 10 minutes. I have a few directs who are very quiet or, when asked, always seem to think everything's good and fine and you can't get much more out of them if you ask them something vague like "what's going on?" or "what's on your mind?" I've let them know that they have the floor and they can talk about anything they want, but they basically have nothing to say. Any ideas on getting them to talk more and open up?

mike_bruns_99's picture

The key is to talk about things that are passionate to the direct, that have NOTHING to do with work.  Family, important causes, etc.
 
"Hi Bob, when does Lauren (Bob's teenage daughter) graduate this year?  What are her summer plans?"
 
The question shows a number of things:
1)  You know that Bob has a daughter 
2)  You realize that Bob has interests outside of work
3)  You are trying to maintain a relationship with them
 
It's not "cheating" to maintain a 1-page document listing all of your directs, their spouses, kids, pets, birthdays, and 2-3 facts about each one.  It's just smart.  If you don't know the names of all of your direct's kids, your relationship with them is not strong enough.
 
=======================================
 
Because while Bob is hopefully passionate about his job, is also passionate about things outside of the job.
 
If you open the one-on-one by saying:
 
"Hi Bob, I saw Lauren's softball team is going to the playoffs, that's great!"  
 
You won't be able to keep him quiet for the 30 minutes.     

aconrad's picture

Thanks for the advice Mike!

Perhaps I'm too new to the system, but I thought from the podcasts that they discouraged asking questions like this. In the podcast, for example, he says don't say "how was your weekend?" because now you're taking control over the conversation and you're specifically asking for information from your direct, rather than leaving it open to them.

I actually know my directs very well: I've worked there longer than all of them have, and they've been working for us for nearly a year now. We have a good rapport and we talk frequently throughout the week. I do have an open door policy. I guess it's more that they are pretty laid back and don't really need to use me as an outlet or resource that much, so when I ask what's up they basically just say "nothing, everything's going pretty well" - and I believe them because I sit next to them and our team has been one of the most successful in the entire company, so they don't have much to complain about.

So part of me wants to adhere to the system, but part of me also doesn't want to force a conversation when they don't exactly feel like talking.

mike_bruns_99's picture

You're right, it's about the direct and what they want to talk about.  But more importantly, it's about building trust in the relationship.

Of course, allow the direct to initiate the conversation. But if they're staring at you like a bump on a log, there's no problem asking probing questions to get them to talk about things that are important to them. It builds the relationship.

I hate the "how was your weekend?" question for a different reason than Mark talks about in the casts.  The question is lazy. It's like talking about the local sports team or the political topic of the day. It's something you talk about with the stranger sitting next to you on the plane, subway, or Uber.  It's like sending a generic Hallmark card for someone's birthday  (my apologies to Hallmark).  It's not personal and doesn't strengthen the relationship. Personal conversations build trust.

The payoff is not in the discussion during the 10 minutes.  The payoff is in building trust between the manager and the direct, so that the direct is comfortable bringing their big issues to the manager.  

The issues may be business related "Boss, I'm worried I can't complete my tasks on project XZY by the due date".  Or the issues may be much more personal.  "Boss, my daughter was just diagnosed with cancer and I'm going to be distracted for a while".  

Teams that have trust are much more effective. It's not manipulation, it's about being a decent human being.

aconrad's picture

Good points - and the good news is I know what they are interested in, so I just need to get them talking about those things and I think that will go a long way. Thanks Mike!

timrutter's picture

Mike's advuce is great and underlines why we do this, it's not just about work.

As a follow up, how long have you been doing O3's with them?

Tim

aconrad's picture

Hi Tim,

I've been doing One-on-Ones with my directs (formally) for almost 6 weeks.

timrutter's picture

Six weeks is a drop in the ocean, some will take six months, some will take longer. At the moment there will probably be some people in your team wonder "What's he up to?"

Tim