One-on-Ones: Agenda Item One

I promised more detail about One-on-Ones. Over time, I’m planning to cover each item on my One-on-One agenda. As a refresher, here is my agenda for a half-hour One-on-One meeting:

  • How are things going personally?
  • How are things going at work?
  • Action Item Report: Manager
  • Action Item Report: Report
  • Feedback (+ and/or -)
  • Annual Review Goals
  • Personalized News (down-flow)
  • Anything Else?
  • Action Items for Next Time

Let’s have a look at the first item: How are things going personally?

You manage people, not ‘resources’. Make a point of knowing the names of spouses, children, grandchildren, brothers, sisters, pets, or whom-ever is important in their lives. Do they have hobbies? Are they involved in charity work? Do they follow baseball? Badminton? Be ready to share this type of information about yourself as well.

If you haven’t had these types of conversations before, you can initiate one something like this:

“Bob, I realized that we don’t know much about each other, apart from work, and I’d like to change that. I would like you know more about who I am, and I’m interested to know more about you.

My wife, Sue, and I have two kids. Jimmy is 14 and Tammy is 12. They both play basketball, and their pretty good too! Last year, Jimmy’s team went to State, and had a real shot at the title.

If you don’t mind sharing, I’d like to know a bit about your life outside of the office.”

Most people will be thrilled that you are interested. If you happen to have a direct report who really wants to keep their personal life private, respect their wishes, of course. If you find that several of your reports are resistant, this may be an indicator of deeper trouble in your relationships with them.

Over time, you may want to ask questions like:

  • Where did you grow up?
  • Where did you go to college?
  • What are your plans for the weekend?
  • How was your weekend?
  • How is your son Bobby doing in school?
  • Do you follow any sports?
  • Are you involved in any organizations?

You get bonus points if you ask follow-up questions about things that came up last time:

  • How did Bobby do in the spelling bee?
  • Is your mother feeling any better?
  • Did the dealership ever figure out what was wrong with your car?
  • How did Fluffy do at doggy day-care?
  • Did Brenda get the job?

Take it slow. Be genuine.

Have some insights or experiences to share? Leave a comment!



Share it!

2 thoughts on “One-on-Ones: Agenda Item One

  1. margaret

    Sorry to disappoint you Chris, but when my Manager asks me personal questions I know she is doing it in order to get information to use against me later.
    It is a form of torture and psychological abuse to have one on one’s in our workplace.
    I HATE it. I want to talk about work. Not my home life.
    My manager is not qualified to offer me life skill advice. My manager is (evidently) a jerk. I don’t want to be like her. I’m not going to take her advice. I want to scream and give her a bit of advice back. But that would get me sacked.
    One on ones are about WORK, that’s all.
    Managers are not my friends. They are to treat me like an equal, and from there, mind their own freaking business.
    cheers. marg

  2. Chris Sims

    I’m sorry to hear about your relationship with your manager. It sounds like it might be time to dust off the resume.
    A few thoughts for managers using this technique in their one-on-ones:
    While many (in my experience, most) people welcome building a closer relationship with their manager, it’s not for everyone. You must be sensitive to this and open to keeping it ‘just business’ when that is the other person’s preference.
    Don’t impose ‘helpful’ personal advice, unless asked! Even then, tread carefully and make sure that it is very clear that it’s completely separate from work.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.