121s, the heart of manager/colleague conversations, are intended to create a reflective space where you can review, learn, share successes, understand challenges, agree help and support and plan ahead for a good month. And yet 121s are often a run through of a to do list (or the not done list), getting more work and more priorities. Often we hear that managers don’t have these regular check-ins, instead relying on ‘if they had any problems they would let me know’. It can be hard to let your manager know when they are busy or in back to back meetings.


I want to be clear a 121 is quality time away from distractions to review, share feedback, learn and plan for the next few weeks. It is much more that red/amber/green on a task to do list.


I do think that you need to allocate quality time – 30 minutes to an hour – and find a quiet place to have a quality conversation. I also believe that you both need to do some thinking and preparation and consider for your colleague:

  • What have they achieved this month?
  • What were you particularly pleased with?
  • What were some more challenging moments? How did they handle this?
  • What feedback have you had about your colleague?
  • What’s coming up for you and the team that you would like them to get involved in? How can they contribute? How will this develop them?


Next time I will explore the 121 itself and how you can facilitate a conversation to gain meaning and understanding.

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