How to get the monkey off your back in 1:1s

Posted by on Aug 23, 2017 in Uncategorized | No Comments

How to get the monkey off your back in 1:1s

1:1s matter.  They’re an opportunity to discuss progress: what’s holding performance back, what needs to happen and how to move forward to deliver even better results. But often they become a talking shop.  Nothing really gets solved. You feel frustrated that despite investing your time and energy you can’t actually be sure of the impact or outcome.  It’s great to have a routine and structure for one to one’s but that alone won’t ensure they’re impactful, it just ensures they happen.  If you want to deliver real value you’ve got to empower instead of enable your team. Have you ever had an employee who you knew wanted to leave but was staying just for the paycheck?  I have and it drained me until I figured how to get out of enabling the behaviour.  





Ed was a 37 year old that upon hire was great at his job but with time his work and passion begin to slip.  It was clear he wasn’t engaged and no matter how many one to ones we had it was clear he was just waiting for a new opportunity to be given to him so he could leave.  Ed’s performance had plateaued, his attitude was increasingly laissez faire and the team were frustrated with his mindset and behaviour.

It took a while to see how I could handle the situation differently.  I’d listened and empathised as he told me how he no longer felt passionate about the work. I’d tried to persuade him of the importance of his work and reconnect him to the passion he’d first had but it seemed like I was doing all the work in the conversation.  The truth was the fixer in me was hooked.  I was working harder to solve Ed’s problem than he was.

Turning around the situation required me to step up and tell him honestly about the company’s need for him to be engaged and deliver results.  We talked about how passion is an inside job and that he was making a choice to be stuck in a holding pattern.  Within a week Ed self empowered and quit for a new career path.  He’s still doing that today and has never regretted his decision.


What are the tell tale signs you’re taking the monkey on?


You feel: stressed, angry, anxious, unforgiving, vengeful, numb, fearful, tired

You want to: control the situation, be right, achieve justice, focus on your agenda

You’re caught in a drama triangle: protecting, rescuing, controlling, being responsible for their feelings


  1. Notice who’s doing the majority of the work in the one to one. If you’re trying hard to figure out the solution and ask the right question you’re probably hooked.  You’ll notice it in your physiology (tense shoulders, tension in your jaw, knots in the stomach).   
  2. Sit back in your chair.  Put your hand on your belly and breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth as you feel your belly rise and fall. The breath will help you create spaciousness and give you time to respond to the conversation rather than just react.
  3. By you finding spaciousness in your own response you will be able to share without judgment what you’re observing. e.g. “I can hear you’re really churning this over in your mind.” Ask them what they feel (it may take them some people time to connect to their feelings).  Once they’ve identified what they’re feeling you can then ask them given how they’re feeling what do they need.  Remember your job isn’t to fix or rescue them, it’s to enable them to self empower.