One to one conversations

One to one conversations happen at agreed intervals between individual group members and their managers/supervisors. Regular one to ones give us the opportunity to:

  • check progress on tasks or projects
  • problem solve
  • re-set objectives in the light of new information (on the basis that we work in a context that is exposed to constant change)
  • look for ways to fill immediate learning needs
  • be creative about opportunities
  • find out how people are and understand what might be happening in their lives so that we can support their needs

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If we don't have regular one to one conversations, then we risk talking to each other about mostly urgent and emergent issues, catching each other whenever something goes wrong or needs immediate attention. As a result of this we can become reactive and feel that we are always on the back foot.

Scheduled one to ones shouldn't get in the way of stopping for real emergencies. There will always be times when we need to stop and talk to each other because something unforeseen has happened. Planned one to ones can take the pressure off us in the sense that we are less likely to be communicating in soundbites as things happen and more likely to be organising our communications around a planned schedule.

Regular one to one conversations don't have to be time consuming. If we set aside time for a scheduled catch up, the conversation can be as short as is necessary to deal with the agenda. As managers and supervisors, if we make time to talk to our group members, then we encourage them to look ahead and plan what they need to discuss with us, instead of waiting until there is a problem before they come to us. A bit of protected time means that staff don't have to worry about when they can grab a moment to talk to us.

Colleagues who work near each other can often feel that they are communicating regularly about the important things and of course, casual or spontaneous conversation can be invaluable. Planned one to one discussions on an agreed agenda won't undermine this, they will enhance by making time to reflect and review.  This means that individuals can plan what they need to discuss in a scheduled meeting instead of trying to find a moment when both they and their manager are free in a busy working week.

  1. Make them uninterrupted time, in a confidential place
  2. If you have to move a one to one conversation, reschedule as soon as you can so that you don’t lose the opportunity
  3. Make a list of anything that you want to talk about, and alert your manager/group member to the topic(s) so that they aren’t blind-sided in the meeting
  4. Keep the discussion focussed and moving forward so that you don’t waste the time - keep an eye on the clock
  5. Take PDR objectives into a one to one meeting so that you know you are talking about the key areas of work - if these don’t seem relevant, then it’s time to re-write your objectives
  6. Make a point of listening to each other: one to one conversations aren’t just an opportunity to issue or hear instructions, they are an opportunity for a real exchange of information and agreement of actions
  7. Make notes and agree who will write them up and send them to the other person, otherwise you may find you have both left the room thinking that the other will do something
  8. If something significant changes in between one to one meetings, a quick email can alert the other person to the situation and allow you both to take a view on the developing scenario
  9. Try to check the personal as well as the work situation - some people need a little encouragement to raise a personal issue that you need to understand
  10. Listen out for signs of difficulty: in a busy working life this may be the only opportunity you have to understand that something isn’t right and needs your attention

One to one conversations can have a real value: they also benefit from adding a longer, more reflective conversation at set intervals. We call these more reflective conversations PDR.