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How Cultural Professionals do more with less.. Part 4

“How can cultural organisations become more productive?”

This is the big challenge facing the cultural sector right now.


No use moaning about it. The situation is grossly unfair, resources have been squeezed for over a decade and now it is becoming a debilitating problem whose impacts are being felt by cultural professionals at every level. No wonder strikes are breaking out.

Yet I cannot see this situation changing any time soon, which is why I’ve written these newsletters.


Hopefully, they can prompt you to reset the way you do things and find ways of managing your increasingly difficult situation without being damaged.

Today we’re looking at working with others. A fundamental is that people work best when there are three things in place:

  • They know WHAT to do

  • They know WHY they do it

  • They have the ABILITY to do it

The key tool for making sure these are in place is the 121.

SO what does a good 121 look like?


1. Set them in the diary and stick to them

Not rocket science and blindingly obvious but think about it, they are routine so when something “more important” comes in, they can easily be shifted. 121s are IMPORTANT. Treat them as a valuable resource.

2. Understand each other’s role in the 121

One is the Line Manager, there to support and monitor.

One is responsible for delivery.

There is a 50/50 responsibility to make this work. Both sides should honour it.

3. Test the emotional temperature

The Line Manager should check in on well-being and ask about any issues to be aware of. The Deliverer needs to tell them.

4. Performance monitoring

Progress measurement should be non-controversial. This requires clear objectives, milestones or whatever works in the context. They must be written down and referred to. This represents your agreement. If everything is going to plan, fine, quick meeting. If not discuss issues and agree a plan to get things back on track.

The Line Manager should be interested in IMPACT not in how the work is being delivered.

5. Actions

At the beginning of every 121 review what should have been done to check if it was.

At the end of the meeting write down what has been agreed.

6. Each side brings energy

You can make 121s fast, focused and fun. Make sure you are moving towards Yes/No decisions as much as possible. Treat 121s with respect and you will reap the rewards.

7. AVOID this type of thinking

Line Manager: “X is great, they are getting on fine, I have this thing to do so I’ll postpone our 121”. This leaves the team member hanging.

The Deliverer: “Y is busy, I’m busy, everything is fine I can get on with things.”

Stops information flowing and might build invisible pressures which do not reveal themselves till far too late.



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