At Unreasonable, we see one-on-one (1:1) meetings as the most important meeting of each week. Regular 1:1 meetings between teammates help build esprit de corps, reduce friction, and make everyone accountable to living the organization’s values day-in and day-out.
These 25-minute sessions are an opportunity to pull back from the daily grind, get to know one another better, and share a non-tactical conversation with our teammates and direct reports.
Staying true to our culture of transparency and inclusion, 1:1 meetings enable open conversations in a safe space to “get real.” While these are technically a form of meeting, the conversations are more so a forum in which to grow interpersonal relationships and improve team effectiveness by building trust, empathy, and understanding.
Regardless of who you are meeting with, begin each 1:1 with a moment of silence followed by a quick check-in on how you and the other person are doing.
One-on-Ones with Direct Reports
Every Monday, each team member shares a 25 minute conversation with their direct report or manager. The agenda is not led, set, or directed by the supervisor: this call is the employee’s meeting and s/he controls the agenda. Whatever they want to discuss, this is a safe space to dive in, ask questions, and be critical. This conversation is about getting out of the weeds and looking at the big picture. As such, weekly tasks are not discussed.
The conversation may be about family, about health, about a frustration the employee needs to voice, about how we can better create a culture in which the employee can realize their full potential, or about a “yellow flag” (i.e. a hunch the employee has about a potential concern that may become a real problem if not discussed early on).
One-on-Ones with Teammates
To encourage bonding and a deepening of relationship across the company, every teammate will be randomly assigned an additional monthly “buddy” from across the company for 1:1 meetings. HR notifies teammates one week before the new month begins via Slack, leaving lead time to schedule 1:1 calls that will work best for both.
The format of these meetings can change and adapt as you and your 1:1 partner see fit. As with Manager/Direct Report 1:1 meetings, conversations should stay out of the weeds, out of tasks for the week to come, and out of tactical language.
Some questions to consider exploring with your 1:1 partner can include:
Did you realize your full potential last week, and what could be done differently to ensure you do?
Do you think we are climbing the right mountain as a company? Why?
Is there anything you’d do differently if you were me?
Do the dang thing
Because we hold these conversations on a weekly basis, it can be helpful to switch up the format to illicit different interactions. Below are some of our favorite alternatives to a traditional conversation:
One person talks for eight minutes, without stopping, in a stream of consciousness manner. The other person only listens and observes, without speaking. After eight minutes, the listener reflects back to the talker exactly what they heard in two to three minutes. The teammates then switch roles. It can be hard to talk for eight straight minutes, but the purpose is to talk beyond one’s ideas and allow new revelations to surface.
The person in the hot seat answers any and all questions posed by their teammate for five minutes, after which the roles are swapped. Continue this rotation for the duration of the meeting. Questions could include: “Who do you most admire?”, “When was the last time you did something that truly challenged you?”, or “If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?”
Similar to hot seat, cold seat is a format in which one person asks questions for five minutes, while the other person responds. In this case, one teammate asks any questions s/he wants about themselves, inviting the other teammate to behave as a mirror. Questions could include: “In your opinion, what are my greatest strengths?” or “What’s one thing I could do to make a greater contribution to the organization?” As with hot seat, participants should swap roles and continue to rotate until time is up.
Rose, Bud, Thorn
Each participant answers three specific questions:
- Rose = What is going best in life or work?
- Bud = What is the one thing you are most excited about but it doesn’t yet exist (could be two days, two weeks, two months, or two years out)?
- Thorn = What is bothering you most right now? A thorn is not a challenge, as a challenge can just as easily be a bud that reveals a positive opportunity. Rather, a thorn is something that is causing you anxiety, that doesn’t feel good, or that you are truly struggling with.
Key Takeaways and Tips
Team and culture form the bedrock of our company, and as such, we commit to making these conversations with teammates a priority. Regardless of how busy your week might be, make space for these meetings and stick to it.
Stay out of the weeds! Make a real effort to avoid talking about the daily grind of your projects, and instead focus on connecting with your teammate. At Unreasonable, each team has a separate “weekly tactical” meeting in which we dive into our tasks and projects.
We very rarely sit still for our one-on-meetings, even if we’re calling in. If possible, use this time as an opportunity to shake up your workday by getting outside, going for a walk, or grabbing a coffee.