3 Steps in 3 Minutes: Creating a 1W1 Coaching System to Gain Traction in Your Team, Business, or Organization

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Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Why in the world would 1W1’s be beneficial to your team, business, or organization? I’m sure many of you know an answer to this question. If so, excellent.

However, I’ve worked in organizations that did not practice 1W1’s, and, whereas I do believe there are times when they are not needed, I do believe, rather strongly, that they are imperative in the first year or two of a brand new team, business, or organization. Why?

Because they allow you to get to know your team in ways that are only possible by spending high-quality time with people. Getting to know who they are as human beings. What they love, how they work, what they are passionate about, and what they are afraid of. All relevant and important.

Mm, actually very important. Being connected to them this way will provide you with information that will help move the team, business, or organization forward. Without that connection, your team, business, or organization will only move so far.

Let us say, for now, that you don’t have a 1W1 coaching system; or, that you find yourself in the midst of a pandemic, which you are, and are looking for new ways to engage with your team.

Within this context, let’s create a very simple 1W1 coaching system that you can put in play right away. Yep, right now, and right away. Here are three steps you can take to create a 1W1 coaching system.

Step 1: Get to Know the Team

Being new to a team, business, or organization means that getting to know the team is of utmost importance. As is creating a relationship and safe context with each staff member. Takes time. As we’ve previously discussed in 3 Steps and 9 Keys to Creating Safety on a Team in 5 Minutes, creating these relationships and the safety that comes as a byproduct of time well spent, are critical to building trust, creating movement, and eventual traction.

By creating a context to spend quality time with each team member, you get to learn about them, from them, and reciprocate in kind. The latter of which is as important as is getting to know all about their hopes, dreams, and fears. You must be vulnerable with them. Giving of yourself, letting them see who you really are, sharing your hopes, dreams, and fears with them. Reciprocity is key. Alright, let’s create that context.

Step 2: Create the Context

Getting to know each team member, before considering them within the team context is an important developmental step for leaders, and for each team member. Why?

Because it is important to get to know:

  • Who they are.
  • What drives them.
  • What they are passionate about.
  • What frightens them.
  • What their short- and long-term goals are.
  • How they see themselves as a part of the team.

Once you know who they are, you can create a comfortable context with them. Approaching them as the individual they are, engaging them in ways that they learn best. In the post, Moving From Concept to Execution: Implementing Developmental Growth Opportunities at Work, I write about how to engage people in ways that make them feel safe and comfortable. Why?

Because before you can ask people to stretch, you need to engage them from their comfort zone. Once you’ve established trust, you can then engage them in getting outside of their comfort zone, which is needed and necessary on teams, and in businesses, and organizations that plan to innovate.

If you ask people to stretch outside of their comfort zone before you know them, and have established a safe context with them, you will lose them.

Also remember that you need to reciprocate, so before you have your 1W1’s, ask yourself the same questions that are listed above, and be prepared to answer them. Reciprocity is what makes relationships work.

Step 2: Develop a Tool

There is a distinction that is important here. Getting to know the team and creating a context for a 1W1 coaching system is more than simply having conversations. Have you ever worked on teams where there was a lot of conversation, yet nothing really moved forward? We all have.

Creating a 1W1 system is about movement. It is about ensuring that the work that needs to get done is getting done. All the while, you continue to develop relationships with the team, and they with you. Important.

Developing a tool, then, to ensure that movement and eventual traction is achieved is needed. The type of tool matters less than that you have a way to keep track of projects and associated tasks.

The first tool we used on my current team was a simple google document. Works well for access and simplicity, yet falls short in holding and moving actions forward over time. Why? Because you can really only see one piece of the conversation at at time.

Here is an example.

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Though limited, the tool did function well for where the team was developmentally at that time. Once the 10-year vision was created, however, we needed a new way to engage and track 1W1's.

When you and the team are clear on the vision, and everyone’s yearly priorities are created, the team is ready to step up to a new 1W1 format. These 1W1’s, as you can see in the example below, are focused on the team members 90-day priorities.

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In the post, Leadership in Practice Series Part 2: Creating 90-Day Priorities Inside of a 10-Year Vision, I write about developing 90-day priorities that connect to a 10-year vision. For now, it is most important to know that developing a continuous 1W1 drumbeat is needed.

Step 3: Create and Deploy the System

Once you know the team, they know you, and you have a tool, you are ready to create the actual 1W1 system. Before we get started, let’s define the system.

Definition of system 1: a regularly interacting or interdependent group of items forming a unified whole


Mm. Love that. Why? Because I believe that a team is a system. A team is a regularly interacting or interdependent group of people forming a unified whole. Wonderful. I digress. Alright, so how to create the 1W1 system?

What do you like in your work? Dependability? Consistency? What is known? Well, everyone likes that. And, then there are those of us that like it chaotic and unknown. However, most people want and even need to be involved in a system that works for them, and that is dependable, consistent, and known.

1W1’s, then, should be scheduled on the same day and time every week, and be set for the same amount of time. I suggest 50-minutes initially. I also strongly recommend weekly 1W1’s until you know the team very well, and there is movement. A weekly 1W1 gives you the space to continue to get to know the team and the space for them to get to know you. Important.

They should be calendared each week, and the agenda should always be updated and available inside of the calendar invite. Why? Well, as I write about in Three Transformational Leadership Skills, transparency is very important. I suggest having the 1W1 document updated before the 1W1 so that the team member can look over the document beforehand.

I also invite each team member to add their agenda items into the 1W1 document. It is important for people to have some ownership in the 1W1 process. Remember, a system, as we are using the term here, is an interdependent group of people.

Let’s do a 1W1 system checklist.

  1. Set the amount of time.
  2. Schedule them for the same day and time each week.
  3. Calendar the meetings.
  4. Create an agenda.
  5. Update the agenda prior to each meeting.
  6. Put the agenda inside of the meeting invite.
  7. Invite contributions from the team member on the agenda.

That’s about it. Now you have a 1W1 system that lives inside of the already existing system known as the team, business, and or organization that you work within.

Know that while consistency, dependability, and knowing are important, 1W1’s should iterate as the team, business, and organization develops. All systems iterate. They are meant to. When systems stop iterating, they become stagnate, and they will slow the team, business, or organization down. Even stop them.

Once you’ve created your 1W1 system, allow it the space to iterate as needed. I’ve been on my current team for just over three years, and the 1W1 system has iterated 5 or 6 times. Yep. Just before COVID-19 I had actually removed them from our workflows as I didn’t see the need. And now? Yep. They are back. Just reinstituted within the last two weeks. Why?

Because there is a need right now. Remember, iterate your 1W1 system as needed, and keep moving, developing, innovating, and creating traction for your team, business, and or organization.

Be well. Create well. Lead well.

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Originally published on servantleadershipcoaching.com

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Interests include personal and professional development, increasing access to higher education, and finding new ways to create inspiration and equity.

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