Written by Kate Billing, Founder & Creative Director, Blacksmith

(Part Six in a seven-part series) A 6 minute read

Here are the links to the previous blogs in my series on using my COVID-19 acronym as a recipe for thriving.

In a time when life has been about being in the company of other humans constantly, be it group meetings on Zoom or living in our ‘Bubble’, the importance of one-to-one time with ourselves and with those we are in relationship with, at work and at home, can easily be overlooked.

One of my foundation principles of human-centred leadership is that leadership is a conversation. That conversation can be with yourself (1), with another person (1-2-1), with a small group (1-2-some), or with a large one (1-2-many)(see model below).

The default for many leaders and organisations in the ‘suddenly leading on-line’ world of COVID-19 has been to focus on the outer two levels of conversation audiences (see model below) using Zoom or MS Teams for synchronous mass engagement and meetings. This can be very powerful when designed and facilitated well but it can also leave people feeling lost in the cracks, overwhelmed, or talked at rather than with.

Conversation audiences

The place and power of 1-2-1 connection and conversation with the people we lead and influence can easily be deprioritised in the busy-ness of our newly integrated lives, as we ‘work from home’ or, more likely, ‘live at the office’ and plan our return to whatever the new world of work will be at Level One.

Time one on one with the people who matter most in your world (including you) gives structure to daily life and to a working week but, when we work in a distributed way, we must be deliberate about making this time, otherwise it very easily falls to the bottom of the To Do list.

Tips on how to go about having the FIRST and most important 1-2-1 conversation – the one you have with yourself – have been outlined in past articles so check out resources for self-compassion practices, developing rational optimism, journaling and handling discouragement. Making a commitment to daily reflection using these practices is the first step. Make time for yourself before you make time for significant others.

Who are our “significant others”? Let’s take a look at the human-centred leadership domains model, below.

Domains of HCL

When it comes to the others in your world, it’s worthwhile pausing to think more deeply about who they are and why your relationship with them is important. When we do this, the value of investing energy and attention in them, via personal 1-2-1 time, becomes clear.

Take a blank sheet of paper and write down the names of the individuals in each of these HCL Domains for YOU:

  • Who’s in your Home Team? (family and friends)
  • Your Work Team? (remember this isn’t just direct reports, it’s anyone you work with inside and outside the organisation to create value for the people the organisation serves)
  • What about your Community? (the fellow humans you engage with in the business of life, like your neighbours, professional network and work out buddies).

Now, on a second sheet of paper, write one of those names and why your relationship with that person is important to you. What is it about this relationship that adds value to your life and/or work? What is it about this person that you appreciate, admire or love? What does this person expect of you, your relationship and your leadership?

Repeat this for each name on the list.

As you pull back and reflect on the people you’ve named and on the details about the importance of that relationship what are you struck by?

At this point you may be thinking “I don’t have time to engage with ALL of these people 1-2-1 each day!”. DON’T PANIC. That’s not the plan.

Along with making space for yourself each day, the invitation is to connect with ONE other person 1-2-1 each day. And it doesn’t have to be a Zoom meeting!

You have all kinds of ways of connecting at your fingertips – both synchronous and asynchronous.

SYNCHRONOUS engagement (occurring at the same time) includes Facetime, a phone call, realtime chat or call on Messenger or Whatsapp and, now we’re at Level One, a real world, in-person catch up with no social distancing! Also remember that these don’t have to be governed by the time blocks in your calendar app. A 10-20 minute chat can be enough, especially when you’re 100% focused on the other person and dialling up your Inquiry skills. And if you’re going to use Zoom then do the work to be more intentional in your planning, your mindset and your “physical set”- learn more about this from Australian film director, Mo MacRae.

ASYNCHRONOUS engagement (occurring at different times) is often limited to rushed emails but there are loads more options. For example, a handwritten note or card of recognition or gratitude has more emotional impact than an email, even when you write exactly the same thing! Use your phone to send an audio message or a voice memo, a simple yet powerful way of making a 1-2-1 connection more human. Take this a step further by recording a video message. After all, you’re probably used to looking at yourself on a device by now; it’s much better than just sending a text and takes no more time!

121 Each Day_synchronous_asynchronous

Finally, create a table like the one above and then select FIVE people from your list (spread across the THREE domains). For each person, identify either a synchronous or asynchronous specific method of engaging with them 1-2-1 and put their name and the method in the relevant box. Then look across the next 5 days and identify which person you’ll make contact with each day. Then do it!

  • Easy.
  • Impactful.
  • Human.

Next up we’ll explore the final part of my COVID-19 recipe for thriving: the 9 Minute Reset.

Our new ways of working aren’t just about technology, no commute time, and working from anywhere. They’re also about creating our own structure, boundaries and work rhythms so we can be healthy, happy and productive. Planning your personal ways of working, whether you’re in the office, at home or anywhere else, is key. WHEN is as important as where and what.


P.S: If you haven’t already, sign up to join our growing Fully Human Tribe HERE or at the bottom of this page and we’ll keep you posted with upcoming events, new thinking and development opportunities!