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One-to-ones, the scourge of innovation, the destroyer of feeling valued and a complete waste of time! Do you think that one-to-ones have become a time-wasting session that does no more than fill in the ‘tick list’ of compliance. Or even worse, you no longer get any one-to-ones with you line manager and if it was scheduled, it gets cancelled at the last minute. Sounds familiar?

In this blog, Rachel (Innersummit’s Process Development Manager) and I will look at how you can re-imagine one-to-ones and create an environment where they can be purposeful, creative and focused. First, I’ll give you my perspective, then Rachel will give her insight into experience Innersummits one-to-ones.

Let’s begin.

Chris’s Perspective (MD – “Lead Summiteer”)

1) Call your one-to-ones something different! In fact, get rid of one-to-ones!! At Innersummit we have 3B conversations. They are our values! If a company culture is to be created where a group of people create an atmosphere that is aligned to the values, then surely the one-to-ones need to reflect this. What are our values? Be You, Be Kind, Be Involved (3B).

  • Be You: The value of authenticity. I always wanted to work in an environment where I could just be myself, working with people who were also happy to be themselves. This is the first priority of any 3B conversation and company culture. Create a narrative of authenticity. I am always mindful when in a 3B conversation to create a real conversation, not fake or have any duplicity, but be real and open. This is what we have established at Innersummit, a ‘be comfortable being you’ culture.
  • Be Kind: The value of safety. Working in a culture that is kind creates safety, where people can work better and enjoy being around the office. In a 3B conversation, this is the atmosphere that is created that makes both parties feel valued. If I feel valued then I will produce more, equally if we can create an environment where people feel valued, I guarantee you will get the best from you team. With each person I work with at Innersummit, my primary aim is to ensure that there is astonishing kindness, whether that is having fun, asking for feedback or just being in tune with the lives of my team so I can adapt my leadership style.
  • Be Involved: The value of focus. Getting stuff done is good. Getting the right things done that produces results is astonishing! When I do a 3B conversation I find that there is a synergy between Rachel and I and stuff gets done because we are authentic (can talk about the tough things) and show astonishing kindness (a high trust environment). Our company strategic goals (Wildly Important Goals) are clear and Rachel understands and is focused on what is required. During our 3B conversation I ask Rachel how I should lead her during this next 4 – 6 weeks; directive, delegate, supportive or coaching. This produces and shifts ownership of leadership equally between Rachel and I, she suggests how I should lead hear and I discuss what that looks like and what the outcomes would be. Let me ask you a question, line manager, would you do that? Give it a go with your staff and see what happens.

2) Keep your commitments! The best way to make your team feel devalued is to keep cancelling one-to-ones. Have you ever felt like that? When you know that your own one-to-one will be rescheduled based around your line managers diary. How weird is that? A simple tweak in my mindset that priorities meetings (which quite frankly are boring and can be changed) around my team has produced a 99% consistent commitment. When I put a 3B conversation in the diary I do not change it. FULL STOP. Yes, I hear you say, what about when a client wants something straight away? Well, usually on a Friday between 3 – 4 pm clients tend to be ok. This is when Rachel and I have decided to schedule our 3Bs. Either way, try to keep your commitments with your team.

3) Show value to your team by being prepared. I always attend a 3B conversation by having something prepared to contribute. This could be around authenticity (Be You), culture (Be Kind) and goals (Be Involved). Showing that you are prepared establishes a high bar in 3B conversations.

Rachel’s Perspective (Process Development Manager – “Team Summiteer”)

Having worked in offices since leaving school, I am well versed with the one to one, the monthly catch up and the resource intensive annual appraisals.  I have been part of, and conducted many in my time, the standard what went well, what didn’t.  The usual was being a rather ambitious / driven person who excitedly completed a CPD / PDP plan for it to gather dust or for the budget or opportunity to attain the development never to arise.

As a learning and development organisation, and one dealing with leadership and management, Innersummit pride ourselves on being passionate about development not only of clients but of ourselves.  As such we won’t conduct the stereotypical annual appraisal review, and instead of a one to one monthly catch up we have something specifically based around our team values.  Our team values are more commonly called our 3B’s – they are Be You, Be Kind and Be Involved, our catch-ups or one to ones that take place every 4-6 weeks between manager and employee are what we call our 3B conversations.

I had my first 3B conversation and wondered how different to a standard one to one it would be.  My first impression was that it was far more relational and slightly less formal than a one to one.  That’s a positive thing as it represents who we are as an organisation and also the culture of trust and relationship we want to develop with any future staff and with our customers.  I did wonder if it was simply something we had just renamed and that in practice it would just be a trendy name for the same old conversation but that is not the case.  I discuss with Chris my manager, Be You, Be Kind and Be Involved, how I am finding it am I feeling involved and if I have any concerns or suggestions.

We always look at my level of engagement, this is the first time I have ever been asked face to face in a relational manner, by a boss, how engaged I was in my work and the organisation.  I have, of course completed annual staff surveys and even been on the working groups that 10-12 months later are still implementing changes from the survey when the new survey comes out.  But there is something different about an honest discussion between employee and manager where I say where I think I am on the levels of engagement and where my manager says where he thinks I am.  The conversation coming from that can be a very useful tool for leaders as we determine how we best lead our staff and engage with them and also will help act as a barometer of how well the organisation and its culture is doing.  It is a regular conversation around the Innersummit office of whether we are thumbs up or not (don’t think we are weird if we reference poo face either lol).

As the first office-based member of the team, the 3B conversations have developed as we have progressed, and a later addition to it is definitely worth a mention, should you really want to talk to your team about how they are doing and where they feel they are.  In our second 3B conversation Chris chatted to me about something we termed the “skill / will matrix” (a lot of you may already be aware of it) a useful grid, where again we use it as a conversation starter of where I feel I am in terms of skill and will / motivation.  The 4-quadrant grid suggests the best leadership style to use, again not often has a boss talked to me about why they are managing me a certain way, never mind taking the time to clarify if that is right and how I feel about it.  Once having that conversation, it opens a doorway.  Currently Chris and I often are aligned with what we think I know should there be a time I need a different leadership approach I genuinely feel the use of that matrix allows a conversation and paves way for that discussion.

Partnering the levels of engagement conversation and the skill / will matrix really does go a long way to ensure we are leading our teams as individuals and engaging them in the way that best applies to them.  Those two elements when framed with conversations about our values and discussions about work coming up – really do mean that the conversations help manager, employee and the organisation as a whole!


The template and structure of the 3B conversations, I feel, lessen the risk dramatically of this becoming a tick box exercise.  Think about it, if you think you employee is one place on the levels of engagement and they think they are at another the conversation will increase understanding on both parts.  Employees who feel listened to and taken notice of will likely be happier and more productive.  I firmly believe the 3B conversations proactively act as a barrier to toxicity in the workplace, and that the conversations they open up can benefit an organisation with an engaged, and valued workforce.

What is the process in your organisation – do the one to ones add value? Are they framed in a way that encourages conversation and relationship? Comment below if you have a process that has moved away from the standard and that helps you and your organisation.

If you would like the template that we use and the format to create a 3B culture feel free to drop us a line and we will send you the details.  Contact or