A Fictional Case

This fictional case illustrates two scenarios: (1) How a mismanaged 1-1 can contribute to strategic drift and employee disengagement, and (2) How a connected manager can use the 1-1 to help unblock issues their people face and accelerate strategic execution through their leadership interactions.

by Christopher Whitehead

—First Try—

Ralph just came out of another meeting with his leader – Amy. He is shaking his head, walking down the hall in frustration.

Back in her office, Amy, Ralph’s leader, feels really good about the meeting she just had with Ralph. She listened briefly to the key project Ralph is working on and then in a burst of inspiration gave him several ideas that could enhance the project even more.

Ralph is angry – tired of scope creep. Can’t the executives of this company ever stay focused? They start the year wanting us to do one thing and within only two months, I’m receiving new direction and work to do that doesn’t even contribute to the original assignments.

Amy, feeling so pleased with herself, goes into her next 1-1 using that same model. The result – more frustrated workers who have to figure out how to translate Amy’s vision into an already busy reality.

Ralph sits at his desk, opens up the project documents and begins to add the new concepts Amy wanted to see. He knows from experience that these new additions are going to side-track his team and delay the core value of the project. His work feels really mundane at this point. He checks his gmail account – interesting, a recruiter just asked for his resume.

—Second Try—

Ralph just left Amy’s office feeling lighter and more focused than he has in years.

Amy, Ralph’s leader, resisted the temptation to share with Ralph all of the additional ideas she’s been having about the core project and instead she zeroed in on Ralph’s number one objective and the progress. In the process she noticed two ugly blockers that were keeping Ralph from getting the project done on time. She asked about those blockers and realized that one of them would be easy for her to solve with a simple phone call. She asked Ralph if that would be ok with him. Ralph agreed, and in the process of the conversation had a new idea pop up that he was sure would help him solve the other blocker.

Ralph, back at his desk, is focused and drives his project ahead of schedule. The day ends, he didn’t even have time for lunch. On his way out to his car he scans his phone, looks at his private email account, sees an invite from a recruiter… delete.