One to ones

Are you holding back from having critical conversations with your team? Do you need to have a conversation with a team member and are dreading it? Do you put off having honest conversations for fear of messing it up, making the situation worse or damaging the relationship you currently have? Do you find that there is conflict within yourself around ‘having the conversation’ or even ‘not having the conversation’?

Seriously, we hear you – they’re a challenge, right?

When going through Employee Engagement Survey results, we often hear that managers find having honest conversations challenging and yet they are vital to the continuing health and growth of your team.

From talking to our clients and participants on our workshops/programmes we know that having honest or challenging conversations can be one of the most daunting tasks a manager faces. Think about these conversations in 3 stages: before, during and after the conversation.

Before – Preparing yourself, your preparation before you start the conversation is fundamental to its success and the maintenance of the relationship.

Think about the individual and the situation/events that have resulted in the need to have this conversation and ask yourself:

Have I got all the facts?

Are they facts, opinion or assumptions?

If I have listened to other people’s feedback of this person, have I evaluated that feedback in a balanced, questioning, and critical way?

Has there been any element of judgement or unconscious bias that has come in?

Am I looking at evidence objectively or am I looking for evidence to support my assumptions?

What feelings or emotions about this person do I have to let go of, to put their interests first?

How might the situations be seen from their point of view?

What is it like to work for a manager like me?

How might I have been contributing to the problem? Should I acknowledge this in the conversation and if so, how?

Am I thinking in terms of the best possible outcome for the individual and the organisation or am I thinking in terms of who is right and who is wrong?

Is there anything else going on with this person?

What are the things which I need to keep reminding myself, in order to be truly effective in this conversation?

What would be a good outcome from this conversation?

The environment of the conversation:

Where am I going to have this conversation? (Find somewhere private)

Whether it’s online or in-person make sure you have set aside time so there are no interruptions or other distractions. If it’s online don’t be doing other things whilst they are talking – no typing, looking at emails that pop up or texts.

Go into the meeting believing the best of the other person and that they can change.

During – in the flow of the conversation:

Remember your body language – be open, approachable, caring and remember to smile rather than grimace! Do you have a concentration face that you might have to watch out for?

Set the tone. Think about the language you are using, rather than using challenging language such as… ‘You did…’, ‘You’re always…’, ‘I need you to’, ‘I’m here to tell you’, ‘With all due respect’, ‘What I want’, use alternative phrases such as, ‘I noticed at last weeks meeting…’, ‘I can see where you’re coming from, however…, ‘What do you think you could do to…’ ‘Let’s go over’, ‘Let’s look at how we can’, ‘Understanding different views…’.

Call attention to any mistakes empathetically and diplomatically; this will help them ‘save face’.

Consider showing your own vulnerability by sharing a time you made a mistake, demonstrating nobody is perfect and it’s a natural part of development.

Remember this is a conversation, not an instruction. Use it as an opportunity to coach them to improve and learn.

Actively listen, remember the 80:20 rule – let them talk 80% and you talk 20%.

Ask guided open questions to help the other person come to a conclusion for themselves – this is a great way to coach them to actions they can take and encourages them to work out how they can do things differently in the future.

Ask what additional support they need, but avoid saying, ‘How can I help?’ as this puts the responsibility back on yourself, when you actually want them to make a change.

Use “feedforward” in place of “feedback”. Feedback is based on the past which cannot be changed, whereas feedforward is suggestions or guidance for the future.

End by thanking them for sharing their commitment, offering words of encouragement and giving them a positive reputation to live up to.

After the conversation:

Think about the conversation, how did it go? What helped you or the individual throughout it? What questions or behaviour are you going to repeat the next time you hold a conversation like this?

Make it your intention to notice changes they have made or action points they have completed.

In further conversations and 1:1’s with them continue to feedforward and encourage.

Overall, honest conversations create an environment where employees feel listened to, valued, respected, and empowered. It contributes to a positive workplace culture, enhances collaboration, and ultimately leads to better outcomes for both individuals and the organisation as a whole.

Remember, that honest conversation can be positive too – we should make as much (if not more time) to focus on the positive conversations when people are doing well.  If you make time to have these conversations, the more difficult ones are much easier to have.

Team days out

A team that has fun together grows together.

“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” –George Bernard Shaw

So what exactly is fun/play?

The Oxford Dictionary of Current English defines fun as: amusement, especially lively or playful. We generally connect the word fun to things that are entertaining and enjoyable to do. Fun is also sometimes used interchangeably with play — although there is a distinction, as some argue that play is a state of mind; a certain attitude we can incorporate into any and every activity (Brown, 2009). It is this state of mind that is crucial. It allows us to approach everyday tasks with curiosity.

Benefits of play – The science!

In a TED Talk that discussed the concept of play in depth, Dr. Stuart Brown explains that “The opposite of play is not work; it’s depression.”  That’s a pretty hard-hitting statement however as we become more aware of the need to look after both our mental and physical health, it’s important to note. We need play!

When we feel good, our bodies and brains are flooded with feel good hormones which, when experienced on a regular basis, are a natural medicine that keeps us healthy in body, mind and spirit. Looking at this from the flip side, if we don’t play, we experience stress which even in low levels, produces cortisol which has all kinds of detrimental effects on the body including anxiety and lower mood. If experienced over a long period of time, it leads to serious physical and mental health issues. On a simple level, if we reduce stress, we reduce cortisol, sleep better and therefore perform better.

Having more fun improves our memory and concentration and helps people to remember.

Alongside the physical and mental benefits of play, it also has the following benefits:

  • Opens up thinking to let creativity flow. Innovation, problem solving and solution focussed thinking thrives when teams have fun
  • We gather inspiration from the world around us to be inspired and therefore more inspiring
  • Time away from business so we return with fresh energy and fresh perspective
  • Higher energy and more motivation
  • When we have fun with others, we build trust, better relationships, and better communication
  • Adventure and risk taking, some of the core qualities of play, help build self esteem and give us a sense of achievement.
  • Lifts our mood and builds resilience

Arrange team days out (and evenings if that is possible). Encourage your team members to suggest things they would enjoy!

If you have an accountant, they should be your first stop for business advice. If you don’t have an accountant or they can’t help, BuBul has a wide range of experts available. For more advice, contact our experts* Michelle and Lee at Pro-Development:


01904 628838


*We’ve picked experts we know and trust who are good at what they do. All of them will give you at least an extra 30 minutes free advice if you contact them and would then charge their normal prices. They don’t pay to be on BuBul and don’t give us any money from anything they earn as an expert.