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Chris Hardy

Treeka Consulting

Consultant and Director

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How can managers refresh 1-1 conversations to help people grow?

Meeting employees’ desire to grow is key to maintaining engagement and motivation.
developing_developmental_opportunities

Robert Kegan’s research into Adult Development Theory maintains that the desire to grow is so important that if this need is not met at work we will look for its fulfilment elsewhere.

Creating developmental opportunities helps meet this desire and results in engaged and motivated individuals.

Here is how to set up your 1-1s to help your people grow.

1. Lay good foundations 

Create psychological safety in each 1-1 by demonstrating care and trust. 

Ask about the person’s life outside of work, remember what they are into and what their family situation is. 

Have the confidence to simply ask people directly about their mental health and wellbeing. 

Providing empathy and recommending support

People feel valued and safe when their whole person is addressed and welcomed into the workplace. 

You can do this in your 1-1s with a few simple questions:

  • Last time you told me about X (hobby / family situation / interest) – I wonder, how is that going?
  • Before we dive into the work, if you like, tell me about your mental health and wellbeing

Remember, if somebody discloses a serious personal mental health issue, you can respond showing that you care and empathise with them and their tough situation. 

Once you’ve done this it’s then professional (and caring) to let them know you feel they should seek further professional support and point them towards your mental health support services.

Have the confidence to simply ask people directly about their mental health and wellbeing

2. Be firm and fair

If you find yourself being too nice and agreeable it’s great practice to learn how to be a little more firm and fair. 

Take a look at Kim Scott’s radical candour model in which she encourages managers to care personally while being willing to challenge directly. 

Challenging something a report says in a 1-1 is not going to ruin the relationship. 

If somebody discloses a serious personal mental health issue, you can respond showing that you care and empathise with them

Conflict is not always negative

In her book Unlocking Leadership Mindtraps, Jennifer Berger explores the notion that conflict can expand possibilities and is actually a really useful piece of management conversations. 

Try the following:

  • I recognise there’s a conflict here between our perspectives; let’s slow down here together remembering that both of us have something useful to bring to the conversation
  • I’d like to challenge you here because I feel there is something important that we’re not addressing which is…

Challenging something a report says in a 1-1 is not going to ruin the relationship

3. Know their growing edge 

In Robert Kegan’s ‘Groove, Edge, Home’ model of a growth culture, ‘edge’ means that managers support their reports to always be learning and growing while at work. (An Everyone Culture, 2016) 

This means that you:

1. Know what challenge this person can work on in order to grow

2. Offer the necessary support for them to overcome this challenge

3. Enable them to actively work on their challenge at least weekly

4. Celebrate and recognise the progress they make.

Try the following:

  • What do you want to learn to do better at work?
  • How can I support you to actively be working on this challenge?

Conflict can expand possibilities and is actually a really useful piece of management conversations

4. Build safe to fail experiments 

Safe to fail experiments are great ways to test ideas and enable reports to work at their growing edge. 

Part of this means removing any stigma around failure while praising efforts to try new things and harvest learning from these efforts. 

1-1s provide a great chance to check in with your reports about their experiments which should be relatively simple, small and cheap to do. 

They should also be able to be done within a couple of weeks so that the learning cycles remain fairly short.

Try the following:

  • What experiments would you like to try next in your work?
  • What do you want to learn by experimenting in this way?

Let your reports know you’re here to cheer them along and you see this as a mutual journey of discovery

5. Reflect, learn, and iterate, together 

If you meet in person then it’s good practice to sit next to your report instead of sitting on the opposite side of the table. 

If you’re working remotely they let your person know that you are going to be playing more of a supportive role in this meeting and would like to imagine that you’re sitting next to them. 

Let your reports know you’re here to cheer them along and you see this as a mutual journey of discovery into the unknown. 

Solution focused thinking may not be appropriate

Sometimes it’s OK to tell this person what to do, or to be firm and fair. 

But very often they’ll be facing a complex situation where the best way to respond is to explore it from multiple perspectives and to hold off any solution focused thinking.

As a manager this can be tough. But you’ll be surprised how fruitful this kind of exploration can be.

Try the following:

  • Let’s use today’s conversation to talk about the different ways of seeing this challenge and withhold any solution focused thinking
  • I’m going to ‘sit alongside’ you today and be here to support you; can you bring the topic to the discussion and tell me how you’d like my support

Reaping the benefits

This five point approach to hosting developmentally orientated 1-1s will help ensure that your team members are engaged and motivated. 

And that’s not the only outcome. With all these experiments taking place your organisation becomes a bedrock of innovation and problem solving. 

As the culture shifts to become one where ‘failure’ no longer holds people back we’re fairly sure you’ll see the impacts across productivity and profitability.

If you enjoyed this, read: Why leaving your professional comfort zone will help advance your career

 

Author Profile Picture
Chris Hardy

Consultant and Director

Read more from Chris Hardy
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