Hey guys,

I want to roll out O3s to my direct as a framework for the future growth of my department.  Currently I am a senior officer and an individual contributor in a small company.  I have one direct report who is also my "partner" on all our work related projects.

Because of the size of the "dept" and how close we work together I am wondering how to roll out the O3 with just a single report that I work very closely with and have a good relationship with already.

Should I formalize this with an O3?  Should I wait until I get another direct and start then when I am busier?  Or should I just make this a formal 30 minutes each week to create the habit even if some topics are repeated from other discussions? 

Another point - in the 10 minutes for feedback - do you guys only provide corrective feedback or also positive feedback?

Thanks in advance,


mattpalmer's picture

In my mind, there's no real difference between adjusting and affirming feedback.  In any situation where I might give either sort of feedback, I will give both if it is warranted.

On your main point, I'd still have a scheduled one-on-one that follows the recommended format.  Unless you're an amazingly unusual boss, I'll bet your direct doesn't get a lot of time day-to-day to initiate conversations on topics purely of interest to them.  That is the primary value of the one-on-one, in my opinion.  You may think you've got a good relationship now, but I'd be surprised if it wasn't strengthened noticeably by giving your direct time to talk about whatever interests them.

rwwh's picture
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Definitely start O3's immediately, don't wait until you're "more busy". In any case you should probably be busy even in a small department, wasting time is never a good idea.

Where in the O3 guidance did you find "10 minutes for feedback"? IIRC, It is 10 minutes for them, 10 minutes for you and 10 minutes for the future. Of course you can give feedback in your 10 minutes, but that is not the only thing you do. Furthermore, if you're working so closely together there should be little feedback that is waiting for an O3.


JustHere's picture

 I have a single direct and we do conduct the O3's.  For ten minutes they can talk about anything, and I let them.  They don't need to give my project status updates because we work very closely together and we communicate all day, so for ten minutes I hear everything from their worries, concerns, and good news.  It feels like a nice downtime for 30 minutes a week, since we are usually in super fast mode all week long.  I let them speak, I take my turn, and then we plan development.  It helps set a nice tone and you can never say that your boss doesn't listen. :-)

Jenninmi's picture
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Suggest you start now, its time well spent. 

I was in a similar circumstance when I started one-n-ones.

There is great value in the formal process Manager Tools lays out. I too thought I had a strong relationship with my one direct, and by and large we did. I had been doing weekly meetings that I thought were equivalent. The value of those sessions jumped noticeably after I started using the more formal, rigorous process that Mike and Mark have laid out. It forced discussion of topics, we had each previously skirted, which led to a more authentic dialog and a better working relationship.

Like anything else, I got better at it by doing O3s week in and week out. So I was able to make the sessions effective right from the start as I have added reports. Everyone agrees they work well, even those who initially did not like the accountability that invariably comes with discussing their work once a week.


VPfreedude's picture

Thanks for all your comments guys.

I have scheduled the O3s to start in January (as our office closes next week) and see the merit in most of what you guys have said.  I look forward to both a better relationship with my direct and getting good at doing the O3s too which will make it better in the future as my dept grows.

As an aside, in the "future" 10 minutes (thanks RWWH for setting me straight on that point) what sorts of things do you guys talk about?  Future projects & tasks or is it more a skills development/requirement discussion?  Love to hear your input on that too!


mattpalmer's picture

I often don't spend any time talking about the future in my O3s, because I'm not coaching yet and in such a small organisation we don't have much "vertical growth" opportunity.  I have taken some time to ask my directs about their career aspirations and what they'd like to be doing long-term (with a view to helping them succeed in that insofar as it improves their effectiveness to the organisation), and I did take a couple of "future" sessions to ask about where each of my directs would like to see the organisation go (which my boss, the CEO, wanted so he could take it into account for his strategic planning).

That time is really intended, I think, for discussion of on-going coaching.  If you're not coaching yet, just take that time to build the relationship more, by letting the direct talk about more of what they want to talk about.

jletman's picture
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I've read what everyone has posted above and found it helpful.

I have the same question, but my circumstance is a little different.

I recently bought out my family's real estate consulting practice. My one report is my sister, and my dad is still working in the business as a consultant.

Are there any changes that you'd make because the O3s are with family?

I know eventually we will add an employee or two, so it would be great to have a process in place before I do that. I'd love the input.

Thanks for your responses.

williamelledgepe's picture
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A while back I was halfway through the feedback model (a little bit of auto-pilot) before I realized I was giving feedback to my daughter about Algebra homework.  Because I was a little caught off-guard with myself, I paused - but then finished the feedback and left it at that.  As it turns out it worked.  I have since used it with her on other occassions - though I use it sparingly and did not give her an expectation of feedback a certain number of times per day.  

Point of the story: the feedback model can be effectively employed with children.  

mattpalmer's picture

Personally, I prefer to avoid ever working with family, because I like to avoid interpersonal drama in all its forms.  However, were I ever to be in that position, or be in line of command to someone in that position, the rule that I would ensure was followed was "at work, there's no such thing as family".  I don't think you have to be a tyrant about it, never mentioning anything family-related between the hours of 8 and 6.  I would certainly say that any question which includes the sentiment "is it any different because they're family?" the answer has to be a window-rattling "NO".  Never consciously treat anyone different because of a familial (or friendship) bond.

(As a meta-comment: it'd be better if you posted this question as a separate topic, because that way your question -- which is a valuable and important one for others in a similar position to consider -- won't get hidden in the middle of a separate topic).

dagar's picture

I tried implementing One on Ones with my only direct and it was awkward.  (Yes I will have to go listen to the cast again and read through the notes)

With us being in the same room across from each other, it was perceived as "What is the point to this?"  It turned into a weekly project planning session.

Any thoughts on how to change this?

mattpalmer's picture

At the beginning of your next one-on-one, reset expectations by saying something like, "I've noticed over our last few one-on-ones that we've been skewing into this being a project planning session.  I don't want this to be like our other meetings -- I'd like to get your thoughts and opinions on what we're doing and how we're going."  Make sure you've got a whole pile of questions available to you that cover this area (this blog post has a few ideas for those sort of questions).

Unless your direct has demonstrated a desire not to talk about their personal life, throw in a few personal questions as well.  If you've talked to this person for a long time and know nothing about them, you might feel awkward asking about it now, so address that head on.  "I've got to apologise, we've been working together for X months/years, but I know very little about you.  I'm interested to know more about your kids/wife/obsession with model trains/hobbies/whatever".  This is going to feel *really* weird at first, if you're a "people are machines that do my bidding" high D like I am, but we're here to do the right thing, not the easy thing.

There's also a cast about "One-on-one refreshes" ( that might be useful to get a few ideas from.

dagar's picture

I did not see anywhere else where this was addressed, so apologies if I have missed it.

When only having 1 direct should there be a separate "staff meeting" vs o3?  If so, what should be covered at the staff meeting?

Thanks in advance


svibanez's picture

@dagar, I used my time during the O3 to put out the staff meeting "stuff" as well as follow up on other tasks. Yes, the O3 occasionally ran longer than 30 minutes, but it was a good use of time.

Now I have 3 directs so I have a staff meeting in addition to the O3s and it's working out very well. The broader scope of responsibility means there's more information to put out to the three of them.

lindagc's picture

Similar to the original poster I have one direct who works 17.5 hours a week. We work closely together so we both know what each other is doing but we still have a weekly O3. We use it for a general debrief, a fill in on what happens on the days she isn't in, how her honours thesis is going, comparing notes on organisational gossip, development opportunites etc. 

lindagc's picture

Similar to the original poster I have one direct who works 17.5 hours a week. We work closely together so we both know what each other is doing but we still have a weekly O3. We use it for a general debrief, a fill in on what happens on the days she isn't in, how her honours thesis is going, comparing notes on organisational gossip, development opportunites etc.