Making time for the most important conversations

I don’t have time to do 1:1’s -how often have we heard this?

Probably a lot if you have either been working as an external consultant or as a HR professional within your organisation. We sign up to the idea but unfortunately they are either done badly or not done at all. I do paint a bleak picture and there are some managers who really do sign up to the ‘cool aid’ of 1:1’s and do a pretty good job however it tends to be in the minority.

I do believe that if an organisation encourages a climate of regular employee / manager dialogue then you see a significant step change in the individual, team and organisational performance.

The kind of things I’ve heard include –

I see them most days either face to face or virtually, we are a close team and don’t such formal conversations.

Although there is a huge amount of value in such informal dialogue the danger is that these conversations tend to be very transactional on areas such as the project, deal or client. As such we end up talking about facts and opinions and don’t provide the space to discuss at a deeper or more impactful level such as personal goals, motivation, development and relationships.

I have such a large team and haven’t got the time to meet everyone.

Yup, this comes up pretty regularly and my heart really sinks when I hear this. What this is really saying that I would rather be spending my time on other areas which I feel are more important to me. As a leader, you have contracted a horrible disease called responsibilities and these will continue to pile up, I mean that’s how it works when you are in such a role, things keep piling up and I don’t have the time time to do everything. I believe it is possible to meet your team and they deserve it. It requires a rethink of our thinking, a recalibration of our attitudes and a step up in our behaviours.

If more of the same isn’t the answer then maybe we need to re focus to less if something different.

There are many reasons why leaders do not have regular 1:1’s.


Besides the obvious one of time, there can be fears at play – of being overwhelmed, ill-equipped, uncomfortable with the ‘intensity of a person to person conversation’ and the fear of not being in control with the unpredictability of actually dropping into a real dialogue.

The reasons are as individual as we are, but there are many reasons why regular formal conversations alongside the spontaneous and informal ones, are critical.

They are the only real route to creating engagement, generating ideas, building understanding and releasing potential. The best thing we can do is to set the intention to turn up for these conversations, and let the possibilities unfold.

So if you are a leader make a commitment to undertake regular 1:1s with your people, and see what difference they make to performance.

Chris is the owner of OneSecondAhead and helps leaders and their teams to build the regular practices such as regular and effective 1 :1’s with their people.


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