Leadership Conversations: The One-on-One

My Top 4 Book Recommendations


#1 – The New One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson

Why I recommend this book:

Great conversations start with a question, and many leaders depend on their walking-around time to effectively manage their people. This book provides a model that helps build your skills doing both of these things. The ‘One-Minute’ phrase in the title is a marketing ploy; it translates into “how to be effective balancing care and accountability with your people when you feel too busy to just wander around making small talk.” Ken Blanchard is always readable and actionable.


#2The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey by Ken Blanchard, William Oncken Jr., & Hal Burrows

Why I recommend this book:

Many of the same comments as above. This book will help you as the leader to listen differently to your conversations, and to work on keeping ownership for problem-solving in the hands of your team. This book teaches leaders to coach and support vs taking on problems their team members bring to them. Ken Blanchard is very skilled at keeping things simple, and this book does that well. On a side note: I did a keynote address around this topic and made a monkey suit (out of felt) that I put on a leader, while the crowd put the monkeys their teams handed over most (using Velcro) on to the suit. It was funny, and a great visual for leaders to see what they do.


#3People-Centered Performance: Bringing Out Our Best Through Honest Conversation

Why I recommend this book:

I wrote this book, and my main reason was to help leaders explore the gap between “I am a people-centered leader” and “How my team sees my leadership effectiveness.” There is always a gap, and this is not about labeling good vs bad, but about exploring effective vs not effective. This book provides a lens for leaders to look at what they believe leadership is, the barriers to being a people-centered leader, and actions to take tomorrow to improve your effectiveness as a leader. There’s also a bonus section in the back for aspiring people-centered leaders which provides books, TED videos, and other resources to continue the development work of building leadership capacity.


#4Managing Right For The First Time: A Field Guide For Doing It Well by David C. Baker

Why I recommend this book:

When I interviewed the author, David Baker, his story about the idea for this book stuck with me. Over a decade of training leaders, he kept hearing the same basic ‘how-to’ questions. I then gave a copy to a 52-year old experienced leader. Within a month of getting the book, he called me and shared a situation in which he opened the book for guidance to help him prepare for a difficult conversation. He credited the book with his successfully handling the situation. This book offers very practical advice, and while it covers more than the one-on-one conversation, it should sit on every leader’s shelf. Not one I would read cover-to-cover, but I would recommend picking a few chapters around areas you need to increase your capacity in, read them, and then implement a few ideas.


Extra Guidance for a Successful One-on-One


Free template for an effective one-on-one conversation (including rule/guideline sheet)

Video for using the Johari Window as a lens to look at the one-on-one differently (and a second video for a deeper dive on the one-on-one)