Committing to 121s

I have had a some interesting conversations in the last week or two with managers about 121s. There are a couple of issues that are probably worth a reminder.

The first is that you should be scheduling 121s well in advance with your team members and then do all in your power to keep to the slot you have booked. If you change the slot for another commitment your team member will believe that you have ‘bumped them for something more important’. If you ‘bump’ them regularly enough they will believe that most things are more important to you than their 121. Providing regularly scheduled and protected time for 121s sends out a powerful message. Once you start regularly re-scheduling then the likelihood of them being missed and the routine being lost increases significantly.

The second issue is about when to hold 121s. I personally find it best to avoid early mornings. This is when your brain is at its best for concentrating on issues that require deep thought. I try to keep these times for jobs that need concentration, analysis and focus. While 121s require active listening skills for me they fit ideally into the afternoon slots when the brain has started to slow down a little. It also means that if nay 121s in the day do HAVE to be moved then I can always bring them forward to a morning slot on the same day. Bringing 121s forward in the week rather than moving them back – or worse still postponing them sends out another powerful message.

I also try to avoid Mondays (although this is great for team meetings). This means that if we need to re-schedule I can always bring them forward to Monday. I also try to avoid Fridays so that if I have to move them back I have some slots available.

121s should as much as possible be scheduled in blocks of time – 2 or 3 in a row with perhaps 5 minutes between each. This way you may spend 10 minutes getting ready for a session of 121s and 10 minutes ‘washing up’ after the session. You will find that you need the same ‘set up’ and ‘wash up’ time for a single 121. So scheduling them in blocks of 2 saves 20 minutes; blocks of three saves 30 minutes and so on. You will also find that your 121s are generally better when done in blocks like this as you can really get into the groove’ – and stay there.

Don’t under-estimate how much this stuff matters. Your team members will make judgments about your commitments to and faith in them based on how you maintain your 121 commitments to them. It may not be very rational – but that’s humanity for you!

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