April 13, 2020

One-on-One Conversations

Each EmpowerED 3.2.1 features a brief summary of my musings about and learning from multiple disciplines as they apply to leadership in education. 


3 Big Ideas

    1. Social distancing presents us with many challenges. It does, however, also provide an opportunity for one-on-one conversations. These interactions allow us to share our varied experiences and viewpoints, gain insight, clarify our thinking, and set a path for moving forward. The time invested in having one-on-one conversations pays enormous dividends: we learn important information that allows us to hasten our work and lessen resistance to it. The one-on-one conversation immediately fosters intimate relationships; reveals wonderful surprises about talents, interests, and passions; and helps build a network for your vision. Giving your undivided attention demonstrates the priority you give to developing relationships, makes clear how much you value personal interaction, and models ways for others to engage in one-on-one conversations These points are summarized from Chapter Two of A School Leader’s Guide to Excellence by Carmen Farina and Laura Kotch.
    2. One-on-one meetings can feel more hurried and disorganized than they need to be. It’s important to make the best use of the time you have together. How can you make the meetings more productive and collaborative? Rebecca Knight writes in “How to Make Your One-on-Ones with Employees More Productive” published by Harvard Business Review by the following Do’s and Don’ts are useful for leaders of all kinds.


      • Begin each meeting by sharing a win. It creates positive energy.
      • Notify your colleague in advance if you plan to touch on professional development; those conversations require reflection and thought.
      • Be curious. Listen to your colleague’s concerns and provide feedback and ideas on how she/he might solve problems.


      • Cancel. Demonstrate that your scheduled conversation/conference is a priority by arriving on time.
      • Be rigid. While it’s wise to have an agenda, it’s also important to be flexible.
      • Forget to say “thank you.” It’s important to show your colleague that you value the opportunity to collaborate.
    3. One-on-ones are fantastic to build stronger teams. This simple process can help you build rapport, help uncover issues before they become a big deal, and build productive working relationships. The webinar “One-on-Ones (A manager’s guide)” describes strategies to become skilled and confident at one-on-ones and is easily applied to school leaders.



“The art of conversation is the art of hearing as well as of being heard.”

– William Hazlitt,
Leading Differently, “One-on-One Relational Meetings

“Conversation isn’t about proving a point; true conversation is about going on a journey with the people you are speaking with.”

– Ricky Maye, author

1 Question

Are teachers engaging in private one-on-one conversations
with students to understand their strengths and needs?


About the Author: Marcia Baldanza is also the author of Professional Practices, a Just ASK Senior Consultant. and adjunct professor at Virginia Tech. Until recently she worked for the School District of Palm Beach County, Florida, where she was an Area Director for School Reform and Accountability; prior to that she was Director of Federal and State Programs.



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