What’s the ideal air time ratio in 1on1s?

#4 Kickarse catch up series

I find it really interesting watching couples when they are out for dinner. Not in a creepy way. Just observing how they connect. How they listen to each other. Whether they seem interested in what each other has to say. How much fun they seem to be having. Ok so it does seem a little creepy. But you’ve got to admit – most of us like people watching right?!

One of the things I find fascinating is when one person is talking… a lot. Like they are in a relationship with their own voice. You know the ones. They often appear oblivious to how all consumed they are. Mistaking nodding with interest and the other person’s silence with permission.

It gets me thinking. Does the person being talked at ever say anything? Do they feel like they don’t matter? That their stories or perspectives are of little interest? I can’t answer that but it does make me curious.

I know there are many similar dynamics in the workplace. Reporting lines with uneven air time. In the early days of a new role it would mean that we talk more because we are teaching. But are we wise enough to realise that this needs to shift over time?

The thing is leaders. You have more ‘power’ in the relationship. And in strong hierarchical based cultures, this is even more apparent. The fear of consequences or managing your reactions might mean they are unlikely to tell you. Just like when kids grow up they need to feel their voice matters, so too is the case for your team members.

The purpose of getting into a rhythm of regular catch ups with our people is to create a space for their needs, their concerns, and their hopes. If they are being talked at, this is unlikely to happen.

So the answer? 50-80% of the time is theirs. If you are taking more than half the time you are talking too much. Their ears are bleeding. They are just not telling you. Hope this helps.

Are you feeling overwhelmed at work right now? Do you want to hear some practical tips to get some clarity and control back? Then come to my upcoming online session ‘Managing overwhelm in the workplace.’ You can check it out here.