How to Energize Your Organization with One-on-One Conversations

You can’t lead and neglect people at the same time.

Busyness that distracts from people is deadly to organizational energy.

Don’t let paperwork and meetings prevent you from quarterly one-on-ones with your team. People aren’t the problem. How to maximize your time with them is.

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Moving the ball down the field is your secondary concern; players are the first.

Successful one-on-ones:

  1. Create positive energy.
  2. Eliminate distractions. We all have tendencies to waste energy by getting off target.
  3. Demonstrate belief. You must believe in people to influence them in positive ways.
  4. Release passion.
  5. Focus talent. Good people may end up spread too thin.
  6. Strengthen respect. Don’t worry about people respecting you. Show respect to them.
  7. Move the ball down the field.

One-on-ones, when done well, energize organizations. Not because leaders are so wonderful, but because everyone wants to succeed and feel good about their role.

One-on-ones are opportunities to help others maximize their contribution.

Evaluate your leadership by how well you energize others.


Good people are hard on themselves. Compassion frees you to focus on another’s talent, passion, and contribution.

Conversations often turn toward negatives, even when you ask for positives.

  1. “What do you want,” is often met with what they don’t want.
  2. “What would you like to do,” often initiates conversations about things that didn’t work.
  3. “What are we successfully doing,” may be met with descriptions of what isn’t being done.

Allow people to explore what they don’t like. Don’t solve it. After they explain an issue, fuel energy by asking the same questions again:

  1. What do you want? 
  2. What can you do? (Think observable behaviors.)
  3. How might I help?
  4. What’s next?

The danger of problem-solving is it may distract leaders from what matters – maximizing people.


Successful one-on-ones are two way conversations, not performance reviews or inquisitions.

Resource: 20 possible questions for successful one-on-ones.

What makes one-on-ones a waste of time?

What makes one-on-ones successful?