A Brief Response to Better One on Ones

Last week this post about One on Ones showed up on my twitter feed. The gist of it is that one on one meetings are good, and it gives a few pointers for how to make them really useful for all involved. This was all great advice, except for the comment that remote teams should use video for meetings.

As a remote team, you should insist that everyone talk over video.

Seeing the other person is meaningful. Body language speaks volumes, and even when you aren’t looking for anything, the human connection is worth having the redundant “Skype hates me!” commentary once a week.

I understand what they’re saying — for a lot of people this is true and a great way to connect. But I really think that you’ll get a more honest/productive conversation if you leave the method of communication up to the participants. Video calls are just not the best medium for everyone, for any number of reasons.

For example: When I’m on a video call, it’s hard for me to process what’s being said with enough time to respond before the topic moves on. Sometimes this means I only half-answer a question, or maybe over-explain because I didn’t catch the beginning, but mostly it means I don’t speak up as much as I should.

This idea isn’t really anything new — “video is the best method” is pretty common. This sentiment that it should be the only way to do a one-on-one, however, is what has made it difficult for me to request text-based chats. I’ve never really had anyone push back on it, but I still feel a little weird asking about it when I have to meet with someone new.

Instead of pushing video, we should ask for & accommodate preferences (as possible — just like I have trouble with video, I know others have trouble with text). If we do this, people who need the accommodations won’t need to feel so “special” interrupting the status quo, and likely will be happier employees. Plus, if they’re not, now they’re better enabled to do something about it 🙂


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