In another thread, a fellow poster warned me about focusing too much on the projects, rather than the directs. I agree with this warning whole-heartedly, but I have a specific problem:

Two of my directs only want to talk about their projects. The way these OOOs tend to go is as follows:

1) During their 10 minutes, I let them talk about anything they want. 95% of the time, this is some specific project.
2) During my 10 minutes, I give feedback, talk about coaching goals and anything else that I mean to get to.
3) Actually, come to think of it, that's usually 30 minutes (or more)

Is it appropriate to provide Directs feedback about proper use of their 10 minutes? Or is their 10 minutes truly their 10 minutes?

I have toyed with a boiler plate reminder than directs have the right to talk about anything they want during their 10 minutes. But to tell you the truth, I am worried this detracts from the goal of allowing their 10 minutes to truly be their 10 minutes.

What do folks think?


fchalif's picture
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Do your Directs meet their objectives in the other aspects of their roles?
Do they provide you with the requisite updates on their objectives, tasks, metrics, etc in other ways?
If they are meeting all the requirements of their roles and wish to use their 10 minutes to discuss projects, than I think that is fine.
Do they follow the Manager Tools management approach? There is an excellent cast (see that may assist them to prepare for their one on ones with you. It may be "touchy" to bring that up directly to them, and you can determine your approach to that based on your relationship with them.

US41's picture


Their 10 minutes are theirs. If they want to talk about their cats, let them do it. There is no proper way to spend it, and giving them feedback about what to do with it would be contrary to the whole point of giving them their 10 minutes in the first place.

It's their 10 minutes to spend as they like.

Note that you are spending your time talking about work. If I was your direct, and you used your 20 minutes to give feedback and talk about work, I'd be talking about nothing but work during my ten minutes.

Have you considered using your ten minutes to talk about your cat and leaving the coaching to the last 10 minutes or skipping it entirely for a couple of O3's?

The purpose of O3's is to spend time on your direct personally. Maybe lead the way by spending your time on yourself personally instead of shining a bright light in their eyes and interrogating/feedbacking them.

HMac's picture

Sometimes I lead the discussion toward the future (e.g., "Let's talk a little about what happens after we get through this project..."), and probe gently about role and career aspirations. That can in turn lead to discussion about developmental needs, likes/dislikes about the direct's current workload and other topics that are all centered on my direct.

Just to allay any concerns, I'm not replacing developmental or coaching conversations with the O3's. It's just that I've found that there are different ways to "make it all about the direct" and that a well-rounded relationship isn't always going to be focused on the immediate work at hand.

[list][i]"This is the third launch project you've done in a row, and you're good at them. Is this the kind of thing you want to keep doing?"

"We've got another 90 days or so of total immersion in this coding effort. Have you thought at all about what projects you want to be doing next?"

"Hey - I'm really glad the project is on time, but I don't want to lose sight of your overall plan for the year. One of the developmental goals we agreed on was that you'd attend an industry conference. Have you seen any we should put into your calendar now, so we'll know you can attend them?"

"How's your new pool table working out?"[/i][/list:u]


rwwh's picture
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The danger of discussing project contents in an O3 is that the other stakeholders in the project are not brought up to date about the issues.

If the direct really wants to talk about the project contents, could this be because there is not enough structured communication inside the project team? Or because the project leader is not giving enough guidance?

Rather than trying to solve it by guiding your direct report into other subjects, it might be worth to find out why (s)he thinks the O3 is the best platform to talk about it.

jgfellow's picture


Excellent point! I'm sure that I do signal that the point of these discussions is work through my own behavior. I'll have to brush up on my cat anecdotes...