July 6, 2004

Council wants to meet 'One on One'


By Eric Rangus

As part of its diversity initiative, the Employee Council has teamed with the Center for Ethics to train council members to practice community by holding face-to-face, informal-yet-informative meetings with fellow employees. The intent is to build and strengthen personal relationships through unvarnished conversation.

The program is called One on Ones, and it is a grass roots method to approaching diversity and workplace chemistry not through large, broad-based programming but instead through intimate, specific discussion aimed at establishing or deepening a public relationship.

Subtitled "Community Building Through Relational Meetings," the One on One is a concept drawn from the work of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization. Although initiated by one person--it can be a junior or senior employee--One on Ones are not question and answer sessions; they are dialogues. Each participant converses openly, and that frankness, hopefully, leads to more.

"You want to talk to people to find out what 'gets their goat' and 'lights their fire,'"
said Chance Hunter, assistant director for communications and events at the Center for Ethics. He led three training meetings, held June 21-23 in Woodruff Library and drawing 18 employees. They included council members and staff in the Office of Multicultural Services and Programs and the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs (EOP).

"I think the One on Ones are a fabulous idea," said Susie Lackey, president-elect of the Employee Council. "This first session was a great beginning, and I understand that all three sessions had different slants on the diversity issue."

"In the big scheme of Emory University, this training is not going to have a huge impact," Hunter said, acknowledging the intimacy of the meetings. "But if it is ongoing and each person has a One on One with 10 people, that impact will be much greater."

Earlier this year, all three president's commissions as well as the Employee Council were asked to come up with programming related to diversity and community.   The council, which has ties to the Center for Ethics through its servant leadership initiative, inquired about One on Ones. Hunter had been familiar with One on Ones for several years and even held training sessions on campus in the past, but they failed to draw much interest. With the council now backing them, the chances of One on Ones reaching a wider audience are much greater.

Hunter's One on One demonstration with Melodye Moore, office manager in biochemistry and the council's communications chair, began like any other cocktail-hour conversation: Where do you work? How did you come to Emory?

They soon found some common ground--each lived in Oklahoma (Hunter in Oklahoma City, Moore in Tulsa)--then, as soon as a conversation beat allowed, Hunter shifted tone toward more significant issues such as racial diversity on campus. In just 14 minutes--the dialoguing pair kept going without taking a breath when the 10-minute time limit passed--Hunter and Moore progressed from talking about office locations to the use of the "n-word" while growing up.

In describing a One on One to the attendees, Hunter stressed what it is not. Such as: small talk (although it can start out that way), a recruiting meeting, a survey, gossipy, or long (the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee is time enough for a One on One).

"It can't turn into a therapy session," he said, adding that notes shouldn't be taken during a One on One. "You are going in, looking at the depths, then coming back to shore."

Follow-up training for the initial group of attendees will take place later this summer or at the start of the 2004-05 academic year. Staff employees interested in One on Ones are encouraged to call Hunter at 404-727-1179 or contact their Employee Council representative.