my team consists of three designers, all of which are recent graduates and new to the corporate world. I am having difficulty getting them to open up in our one on one meetings. I ask basic questions, talk about myself and current events but even when they do open up their responses are shallow and not very telling.
what am I doing wrong?
thanks for the help and all the great information!

Brent's picture

From your post, it sounds like you're asking them shallow questions about themselves, you're talking about yourself, and you're commenting on external circumstances. Unfortunately, people don't respond strongly to such things.

You need to ask them more probing questions, I think. Show genuine interest in them, and if they mention [i]anything[/i] about themselves, use that to probe deeper.


Me: "Looks like you have a busy week. Doing anything this weekend?"
Her: "No, I'll probably stay home."
Me: (Looking deeper) "Oh, going to do some work around the house?"

Does that help?

Mark's picture


Thanks for the kind words. We love them... for now, they're the equivalent of paying the bills.

I don't think you're doing anything wrong. In my experience holding O3s and coaching them, sometimes, with some folks, the relationship takes time. They're new to the corporate world, and my guess is you've been doing O3s less than 6 months. So, let it simmer a while. They're new grads... they're probably scared to death.

Is it possible it's something you're doing? Yes. But I wouldn't go there as a reason for their responses for several more months.

[Mike and I are researching an O3 coaching kit, where we would send you a couple of wireless cameras and have you record a couple sessions, just to get a sense of the mood in the O3. (It would be for a fee, sorry - we would be deluged - as if we aren't already - if we did that for free.) Stay tuned.]

Stay relaxed, keep trying, if you think it would help be explicit about your intent... think of it as getting good work stuff, so no sense in stopping... and that gives you a forum for on going improvements.

Keep us posted...


jpb's picture

I have decided to lighten up the one on one meetings and keep them as more freeflowing conversations. This is loosening me and the team up a little. We're not talking about work which is fine but my boss thinks this is a waste of time. Unfortunately he shares with my team, reversing some progress.

Overall I think we're getting on track but there is a lot to work on. I have so much to learn...

thanks again for all the help. I'm not sure what I would do without these podcats.

Mark's picture

What you're doing sounds good. I'm not surprised that you're getting some pushback from your boss, but I would recommend you persevere. You seem to have a good sense of things.
Think of it this way: generally bosses view you and your team as a little public company, to be managed for ever-increasing profitable quarters. that tends to create an anti-investment mentality, where you are pulled towards quick wins with low hanging fruit. there is nothing inherently wrong with this...but I like to suggest to managers that while that's their boss's point of view, yours ought to be that of a privately held company. Private firms can more easily manage for the long term, investing (even if in small ways) without a guarantee of a return, believing that yeast and flour and heat take a little longer make a better meal than salt crackers.
Does that mean tension w/ your boss? Yes, a little, depending on the boss. but it also engenders fierce loyalty from directs, which is the well you draw from when the "stuff" hits the fan, or that boss needs a miracle.
Make your case w/ the boss as best you can. and don't stint on telling your team, 'hey, I know the boss doesn't necessarily agree, but I think our relationship and our feeling as a team is worth something, and I'm willing to invest in you for it.l
That'll get you some props, I'd bet.

Keep us posted,

jpb's picture

thanks for the advise about my boss. I had not thought of our relationship that way.

Most of my team is made up of "i" personalities and I have one "c" so I am trying to adjust my communication to better fit their needs. My boss is a high "i" (think stratosphere) so I'm a little confused by his objections to One on Ones.

To help sell through the one on one, I have patterned a daily one on one for my boss. First thing in the morning I sit down with him, cover the days activities and give a general status report on the office. I know it's not quite the same but for the past few weeks it has worked great and he loves it. later this month I'm going to tell him how I came up with this plan. Maybe he then he will be sold on one on ones.

thanks again for all the help and time you guys put into the podcasts. they are so valuable to me. If there is anything I can do to help out do not hesitate to contact me.

jpb's picture

quick update I listened to and have applied all I know about the DISC model and have noticed a richer quality of communication with my team.

One of my directs is very reserved so I asked her to think about what she would like to talk about and write it out. She sent me a page of issues and a brief summery of her thoughts. I plan to go over it in our One on One next week.
Is this a good way to go about our one on ones?

Mark's picture


Sure, that'll work fine. It's not ideal, because it takes lots of her time away from work in addition to the O3, but it's a way of addressing her being quiet.

I would say that if she ever wants to grow, you're going to have to work with her on being more verbal. The fact is, the workplace is full of communication, and lots of it is verbal. At some point, if she were ever to push back on not moving ahead or not getting raises/the right projects, I'd give her feedback there.

But for now, if it works for her and doesn't cut things back... and she doesn't see it as "another dang report"... sure. (yes, if she ever complained about the report, I'd say fine, don't do it... but we're still having one on ones...)


jpb's picture

things are slow in the office so the report isn't bothering her. when the work load picks up I hope she moves away from the report and sticks to the one on one as a major channel for disscussion.

I hope writing will help her open up and relax. Some of the verbal presentations she has given have been confrontational so we are working on that. I think most of this friction comes from lack of confidence.

thanks again for all your help.

Mark's picture

Good points - I think you're doing it just right.

Glad we're helping.

Keep us posted!