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Submitted by harnod on


Hi, I find that my One on Ones tend to be very short. To explain better, the first 10 minutes tend to be up to 2 for most of my directs. I have tried asking questions like "what was your last week like?".

Also, I generally never get any really personal information for anyone.

To give some background, I am an IT team manager with 6 directs in a virtual team (EU & US). I do my 03s in a separate room (we have a room for IT use and also we have one team member who finds it difficult not to listen to others' conversations - no, I have not given him feedback on this as I think I must not discourage him from having natural curiosity and interest in the rest of the team), therefore I do not think it is a question of opening their private world in a "non-public yet not private" session.


Do you have any guidance? I appreciate any and all comments you may have.

Thank you


stephenbooth_uk's picture

Some people just don't like sharing personal stuff at work, some people are OK about sharing but  feel it's inappropriate to share in a formal meeting with their boss whilst others won't shut up about it.  You can't really force someone to speak if they don't want to.

Have you tried asking more leading supplementary questions, even personal ones?  Maybe do a bit of, well, not spying but indirect information gathering.  Wander through at lunchtime and see if you can see what people are reading, what websites they are surfing and what they are talking about.  If you pick up that someone is, say, into Sci-fi when conversation dries up at at their next O3 ask them "Have you seen the new Star Trek?  What did you think? I'm taking my daughter/nephew/son/niece next week."  or something along those lines.  That way you're engaging them on something they're interested in and sharing something personal about yourself, this may encourage them to open up.



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jhack's picture

Some folks take a long time to start sharing stuff.  It can months, even years, for some to be comfortable.  A few will never be.  Don't sweat it.  

Stephen's right: ask specific questions about where they went on vacation, or if they saw American Idol, whatever.  And talk about your personal stuff.  Tell them about your spouse, or kid (just don't ramble - "My daughter was in a concert last night, she was first clarinet...".)

And you're right not to give feedback on the listening.  If he acts inappropriately based on what he hears, or ignores his work because of listening, that's an issue.  Listening to what's going on around him in the cubes, not really an issue.  

And make sure you have planned coaching conversations and future career direction discussions.  The O3 can still be very effective if you take 12 minutes for your stuff, and 15 minutes on "the future."  

John Hack

rgbiv99's picture

My O3 breakthrough moment came when I realized that the one on ones are a conversation, not an inquisition. One of my directs is pretty quiet and we have very little in common socially, so sometimes I'll actually start off the conversation talking about myself - "I saw Star Trek this weekend and I thought it was awesome. Here's why. Have you seen it? Do you go to the movies often? What kind of genre do you like? Etc." Once I stopped thinking of it as my DR has to talk about him/herself for 10 minutes straight, it got a lot easier.

I also try to tell them some self-effacing things about myself so that they feel more comfortable opening up about themselves if they want to. The point of the O3 is to build the relationship so try not to put too much pressure on yourself. 

As a side note, my boss recently started doing O3s with me and it's bizarre to sit on the other side of the desk. It's interesting to note her behaviors and how it feels from the other perspective. For example, when she starts out, "So what's going on with you?" I never want to talk about my life outside of work. I only want to talk about the projects I'm working on. Also, when I see that she has a lot of notes for her 10 minutes I think, "Oh geez. I wonder what I'm going to get blasted with this week." I wonder if my DRs think the same things (probably).


jhack's picture

One of the things I've learned from doing O3's with my team is to be better prepared for my boss.  I know what I'd like from my directs, so I try to be that person.   I prep ahead, have my list of topics and updates, take notes, and am ready to discuss my career.  I review the last weeks' notes  before this week's O3, and make sure everything has been addressed.  

John Hack

mikehansen's picture

Don't forget to take notes on the personal stuff also.  It makes it easier to have the follow up conversation the next week when you can remember details.  For instance asking how your weekend was will likely solicit "fine".  However, asking "how was the family reunion?  Did you get to see your cousin Phil?  Is he still engaged?" will elicit a much longer conversation.

I would have a hard time if I did not do this myself.


WillDuke's picture
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I'll second what RGBIV99 said - they're not going to open up if you don't.  I think M&M even recommend opening up to them first when starting O3s.  It has been a while since I listened to that cast.

There certainly are some people who don't naturally open up, and expecting them to because that would be good for you to improve your relationship so you can get them to perform better... Well, Horstman #1 "You're not that smart, and they're not that stupid."  :)

Did you have the chat about what O3s are about?  What the goals of the meetings are?  After that, just remind them, gently, that this is their chance to talk to you about whatever they would like.  I start my meetings with "Okay, the first 10 minutes are yours."  If they have nothing, or less than 10 mins, fine.  I just go into mine whenever they're finished.

As corny as it sounds, and most of us are technical, so I know it sounds REALLY corny, I keep love in my heart.  I am here to see to their success, to my success, and to the company's success.  I believe that all 3 can be achieved with honesty, caring, integrity, etc.  That love in my heart is the foundation for each and every interaction I have with my directs.  Every day.

Eventually those C & D personalities do open up.  Honestly.  But only when they're ready.  Only when they know they can trust you.  Be patient.