Carmen’s heart sunk as she looked at her calendar. Back-to-back 1:1 meetings filled her day, overflowing into tomorrow.
“Ugh… maybe I could call in sick. Or, make up an excuse to work from home. My boss wouldn’t care. My team would be thrilled to skip them.”
“It’s not too late, you can still call in sick,” she thought as she stood in the Starbucks line, “but then what kind of boss would you be? It sucks, and everyone hates it, but you have to do it.”
“Sheesh, what are we gonna talk about? I guess I’ll just ask people what they are working on this week, and hopefully, I can get each one done in 5 minutes. Oh! Or maybe we could do them in small groups! That would take up SO much less time.”
“I’d better order an extra large coffee with quad shots… I’m going to need it.”
I’m going to share a head-smackingly simple lesson. Ready?
Make every fourth one-on-one meeting a retrospective to discuss improvements to your one-on-one’s.
This is similar to a sprint retrospective, and you can use the same format. The point of a sprint retrospective is for the team to improve. The point of this retro is to improve your one-on-ones, making them more valuable for both of you.
That’s it. Go do it.
But if you need a nudge…
Boom-skittles, that’s it.
Start talking about your 1:1s with the other person and discuss how they could be better.
What can you do to improve a one-on-one that is inflicted on you?
Here are some simple, but maybe not easy, ways to broach the subject with your boss:
Stop pretending your 1:1s are great, or that they can’t be changed, or that you’re benefiting from them as much as you could be.
Best case: the meetings will improve, your boss will appreciate your initiative, and you’ll do better work.
Worst case: your boss says “No, things are fine as-is. How dare you suggest they could be improved. Just give me your status update.”
(If the worst case happens, you have bigger problems than crummy 1:1's.)
It’s easy to fall into a rut with your 1:1 meetings, like an old married couple can fall into a pattern about how they spend Friday nights.
Here are ten things about your 1:1s that you could change, but might not have considered.
(There are surely many more, but this should get your creative juices flowing.)
In particular, I ask myself if my current practices still fit with the new situation or reality.
Often, I find that this one question allows me to be more agile, more creative, and less judging. It lets me see new possibilities that I’d been missing.
For example, if I was dreading my 1:1s, I might ask questions such as…
“The important thing is not to stop questioning” — Albert Einstein
Jane asked her mother, “Why do you cut the ends of the ham before baking it?”
Her mother answered, “Because that’s how your grandma taught me to do it. Ask Grandma.”
When Jane asked her Grandma, she replied, “My roasting pan was small, so I had to cut the ends off the ham to fit it in the pan.”
Not just because you want to avoid looking dumb, or rocking the boat, or breaking tradition, but because you may not realize there’s a question to ask.
New possibilities are wonderful. New choices and options do exist about how we work together. New possibilities bring hope that the future doesn’t have to be like the past and that we can grow and improve.
What a great thought! :)
Now, you might be thinking of someone who’s feeling stuck that needs to hear this. Go ahead and forward this article it to them.
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