Mark and Mike...I introduced myself in the member bios as jeffz the beginning of this month and I have a question regarding one-on-ones.

1. Our architectural firm does not have much organization in the way of titles or job descriptions that would put me in a position of stated leadership to request one-on-ones with others that may or may not perceive me as their manager and them as my "direct report". I am acknowledged as the project architect responsible for specific clients and projects and the others work with me on the projects with my direction. Would it be appropriate to request one-on-ones with anyone that is working with me on my projects?

2. Our "teams" sometimes are very fluid and one week I will have 2 "direct reports" and other weeks I will have 8-10 with a staff of about 30. How can I establish one-on-ones in a meaningful and consistent manner to achieve the desired relationship goals?

During our "strategic planning" sessions over the last year or so, "trust" was brought up as a firm value and/or goal, but no one could identify a way to develop a strategy and therefore the ownership tagged the goal as too "touchy feely" and could not be measured, therefore, they tossed it out. I believe that you either have trust or you do not and the one-on-ones provide the forum and the tool of measurement to make "trust" a reasonable value to pursue.


juliahhavener's picture
Licensee Badge

I'm not Mark or Mike, but I'll pipe in anyway.

If you're leading a project in which you have people reporting to you in order to meet a set of goals - have O3s with those people. If that project is a 1 week deal, it probably won't have the same value as it would be if those projects last 4-12 weeks. I would probably still do them, particularly if those people will work for you again two projects down the line. The relationship you begin now will be there then, too.

I think you're absolutely correct that trust is a laudable goal that shouldn't be given up on. One on ones are the way to achieve it, and I think your projects will only benefit from the process.

jhack's picture

You should listen to the podcast of Aug 16, 2005 (Effective Meetings - There's More), in which Mark and Mike discuss one on ones in the context of project teams rather than typical reporting relationships.

I've found that trust in the workplace often means "can I trust this person to do what they said they'd do?" You can measure whether someone delivers on time, on budget. (The recent Teambuilding 101 and Creating a Sense of Urgency podcasts hit on just these points, and they are worth another listen).

Good luck!

TomW's picture
Training Badge

Heya Jeff

I work for an architecture firm near Philadelphia and I know what you're getting at. The teams you work with are not consistent, making it really hard to build a rapport so you can have strong relationships needed for one-on-ones, coaching, and feedback. Each project manager is a little different and staff constantly floats between them. Some might even switch off, being project manager on one project and staff architect on the next.

I've found the feedback and coaching to work pretty well. One-on-ones can be a little trickier since it really says "I'm your boss", when sometimes you're not.

To me, the biggest way to earn trust was for the senior management to communicate in person as much as possible. Emails, memos, voice mails all communicate, but do not convey trust at all. I get the impression you are trying to help the staff see the partners are people, not just suits. That's hard!

Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

Trust is easy, but that's for another time. I think the problem there is the firm said it was a goal or a value... that's like saying it's either butter or a neutrino. Touchy feely indeed...until some client stops trusting you guys.

Architecture firms are awful at organization and structure. Surely there's a pun there...

You don't NEED a relationship for one on ones and coaching and feedback to work.

And, yes, start them. Some will work, some won't. Some folks will love them, and want to work with you more, and some will hate them. The ones who hate them at least will give you project status, which will be a big part of them for you, anyway.

If it's a longer project, go 10/10/10 - otherwise, 15-15.


jeffh's picture
Training Badge

I have similar issues as a project manager in a matrix setting. My team memebers are peers, and sometimes superiors in the org structure.

For short projects, consider having two O3s per week. Remember, more communication is better. You don't want to get in the way of their productivity. Try to balance the need to build relationship with the need to keep the project on track.

Consider this: Project are for now. Relationships are for now AND the future. During an O3 you have the chance to impact both the current project and future projects. Every minute you spend building relationships in an O3 will pay off the next time you work together.

Good luck,