I have been working with my team for a while now. Some of them for over three years. We have an open office together. Some of us have lunch together. We have a laid back work environment. So what often happens once I get into a 1 on 1s with my directs is that there is not a lot to talk about that both of us don't already know. Not with everyone, but sometimes it is a struggle to find something new to discuss.

I start off by saying, "so how's it going?" But often the answer is, "well, you know, we just talked about it yesterday at lunch, or in the snack room."

My question is, if I have an open, long standing relationship with my directs, and for some, having weekly 1 on 1s is not covering any new ground, what would you suggest that might help it not feel forced?

leanne's picture

Do you talk about the future much with them? That'd be one thing.

Some of that being their future, of course.

The company future, though, too. Upcoming plans. Projects coming up that you're thinking about putting them on. Projects that you're *not* thinking of putting them on, but for which they might have some special knowledge that could be helpful in an advisory role. (I get a lot of that. 'Leanne, we need you to keep working your current project, but Bob and Jim are doing this thing and they might ask you for advice.' 'Uh I've never done that thing before.' 'No, but you know lots of stuff in general and so maybe you'll be able to give them some pointers. ' 'Well yeah ok, I can do that.' The earlier they give me a heads-up, the more I can pay attention when that thing gets talked about around me, and therefore the better I am at giving advice when Bob and Jim come to me.)

You can even just say 'well, I don't have anything either, so that's it this week. Same time next week!' Just don't do that every week, or even very many weeks (preferably not two weeks in a row - it can start feeling fake to even show up at that point, and that does damage the relationship).

There's always coaching - or at least there should always be coaching.

Ask occasionally if they've got any process improvements they've thought about lately that you could talk about. Or whatever else might be appropriate in your particular field in terms of improvements.

Is there anything new you can delegate to them? Or have delegated to them recently and not checked in with them? Ask if they're having trouble with it or have any questions. Or pass on any commentary you may have heard about it from someone else.

Look back through O3 notes and see if there was anything that you think you should ask more about that you haven't already.

Give them feedback on the way that you guys communicate so well. (Just make sure it doesn't sound like 'so let's stop doing these O3s'...)

Mrzj's picture

Thank you. There is some good advice here. We do talk about the future. Although not much changes from week to week with company goals or what they want from their future.


I do really like the idea of asking them if they have any ideas on process improvements. I will for sure use that.

I guess the biggest challenge is that I work in an open office with my folks all day. We all have lots to talk about throughout the week, so sometimes it feels very forced to make sure I spend 30 full minutes on a 1 on 1 with them when there may not be any new ground to cover.

tlhausmann's picture

There is a podcast on Refreshing Your O3s "The One On One Refresh"

Within the podcast there is also guidance on taking better notes...a hidden gem.

ashdenver's picture

When establishing O3's with my teams, I generally send three different recurring meetings:

  1. General topics - repeated every 2 weeks
  2. Metrics review - repeated every 4 weeks
  3. Career development - repeated every 4 weeks

This means our O3's will end up having the following cycle of themes:

General > Metrics > General > Career > General > Metrics > General > Career > General ...

It has worked well for us and the General meetings tend to be the short ones.