Mark and Mike
Thanks for Manager Tools. The pod cast’s have given me inspiration and helped my professional development. I ‘v started using the feedback model with some success. It really is easer to give affirmative feedback. Before I start the one on one’s I need some suggestions with the schedule. Let me explain what I do and the time frames I’m dealing with. I am a volunteer firefighter in a station with 42 personnel. The Chief and Deputy Chief have primarily admin functions. The forty firefighters are divided into four platoons with a Captain as the supervisor. I am one of the Captains. We train every Tuesday for two hours and respond to approximately 350 calls a year. The platoons assemble every other month. During that time period we spend three hours together on Sunday mornings conducting equipment checks and station housekeeping. The schedule is very tight and before I begin the one on one’s I need to have a plan that will work. Any input from you or any members would be appreciated.

jhack's picture


First, thanks for the work you do.

If I'm doing the math right, you have 9 volunteers under you (4 captains, 9 firefighters each; plus the Chief and Deputy Chief = 42).

Could you do the one on ones outside of the standard schedule? Say, once every two weeks with each firefighter? That would be about 2 or 2 and a half hours per week, on the phone? Maybe meet for coffee at the station?

I don't have experience in this situation, so it's really just throwing out some ideas....


AndyB's picture

You are correct with the numbers John, and yes I could get together out side the schedule. Before that happens I want to make certain that it’s the best option. I don’t want to start something that will not work. Volunteer retention is a constant battle and taking more time away from them can have a negative effect. Thanks for the idea.
Have you done phone one on one’s and how well do they work compared to face to face?

HMac's picture

Andy -

Thank you for your service.

I've done lots of phone O3's, because my staff is geographically distributed. They work fine. You have to be a little sensitive to ensuring you have one another's full attention (listen for typing and other things in the background :) ).

And it's going to be a little different for you because you're working with volunteers. There's likely going to be a lot more diversity in the reasons they're working, and the degree of commitment they bring to the "job."

But that's OK - and in itself, a great objective for your O3's: to really get a handle on each person's motivations and commitment, so you can help them find the fulfillment they're looking for from being a volunteer.

Hope this helps.

Again, thanks for your service.


jhack's picture

Yes, I do phone one-on-ones and they work.


juliahhavener's picture
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I apologize in the delay in my response. I hope you find some of what you're looking for in my long-winded post :)

I suspect you will find that O3s will help with your retention problems. In an industry (call center/technical support) with a tradition of high turnovers, O3s have helped me minimize this. A similar site has a 48% turnover rate. In 2007, my team's turnover was less than 30%. With the challenges we faced as a start up department, I am convinced that One on Ones had a direct and immediate impact on this.

In that year, I've seen two employees move into other departments or locations where they are able to meet their own development goals. I've seen four others truly grow professionally in HUGE ways (ways I was afraid would not happen for those folks). The one who was certain management was the bad guy? He regularly gives me positive the MT format. How's that for cool?

IMO, it's well worth the investment time.

My team size recently doubled and I have had to restructure my calendar. Due to the project time investment I found myself in, I was not maintaining O3s with my existing team well. I am just now back to a point where I can schedule O3s with my total of 21 employees and be reasonably assured I can keep to that schedule. I KNOW the impact because my existing employees make sure to touch base with me, even though we have not had O3s through the training period for the new hires, and I know that my relationship with those new hires is not as strong as it could and should be. Restoring O3s with the entire team is my next major priority.

If you can only do one thing differently in the position you're in - I would suggest it be this. When working with volunteers, this becomes even more important, I think. They are working for you for their own satisfaction and to fulfill their own needs. You owe it to them to know how you can help them on all counts.

As for scheduling, I would suggest you determine a time you can reliably conduct phone interviews. Explain your desire to them and what you believe it will help you achieve with them (the template email is a good basis). As them to select times from your available times that they can also reliably be reached. See where you land from there. Catch your one-offs before or after your training time, if need be. Once the relationship is built, you will have a much stronger team.

dmbaldwin's picture

I have five direct reports that are paid and eight that are volunteers. I have One-on-Ones with the paid staff every week. I use the form that MT has on the website. It is an invaluable tool.

With the eight that are volunteers I do a one-on-one a month with each of the eight and then touch base with them by phone weekly otherwise. I like the idea of a weekly phone one-on-one. I'll try it and see how it goes.