“What’s new since we talked last?” I asked. “Meetings,” she said. “I’m doing one-on-ones with my people, like we talked about.”
She is a client.Â Her company makes web sites and on-line products for a specialized industry. They’ve got a reputation for high end work, solid market penetration and about a dozen employees. She is the primary sales person and has the most common complaint I hear from business owners: “I can’t find good employees”
The meetings were going well. She was staying on track, learning what people were up against, and heading off complications before they became actual problems. The words were very positive, but her tone was not.
“So?” I asked.
“All these meetings. They’re keeping me from my real work.”
But she was wrong about that. What a small company has in common with a small child is despite their size, they still need all of the parts. So even small companies need three levels of management, someone to do collections, to analyse the numbers, and all that stuff big companies have whole departments for. But being small you don’t need them all full time. So people wear multiple hats. And when that happens, you tend to wear the hats you’re best at or enjoy the most. So my client loves sales and coming up with new product ideas.
Because she’s done a good job in those areas, the company needs more production capacity, and better coordination. So now she must consider management to be her “real job”. By focusing on this (not exclusively but predominantly) she’ll enable others to do more with fewer problems. That’s the real job of building a company. When problems decrease, and productivity improves, she’ll be able to wear this hat a little less and put on another a bit more.
One-on-one’s: Great management tool.
Have one with each of your direct reports.
Meet weekly at the same time for 30 minutes. Never reschedule. It’s that important – it is your real job.
Prepare. They should and you should too.
Don’t solve problems. Or train. Some of that may happen. But if you can’t fit it into 30 minutes along with the other stuff, then you needÂ a separate meeting for training or problem solving.
It’s a time for you to share certain things and learn certain other things. Generally the same kinds of things each week (maybe even in the same order depending on your style) which makes it easy for each of you to prepare.
What to share. Anything the other person must know to do their job better. That’s your role as manager: to help them do their job better. Maybe share what’s happening in other departments so they can interact better. Maybe it’s feedback of how they really made a difference. Share what they can expect from you and the rest of the company; both before the next one-on-one and longer term. You prepare by keeping a notebook around all week and jotting down stuff that you’ll need to share with each person.Â Then spend a few minutes pulling it together before the one-on-one.
What you should learn. Status: what happened since last time and how that compares to what you expected. Why there’s a difference. What problems they are running into. Their opinions on things. Insights you don’t know about because you don’t live at their desk. Over time, you’ll get a sense of who they are as a person: what motivates them, what puts them off. You’ll get a feel for what they do well and where their limitations are. Make notes about this.
Written take-aways: What each of you will do before the next meeting based. This becomes the status for next week’s meeting. Notes you can use for their annual review. They should take away your impressions of how they’re doing so nothing (I repeat nothing) in their review is a surprise. If it is, you’re not doing it right, but that’s another column.
Trust (in both directions) is a non written take-away.
Beware: You’ll think you don’t have time. But it reduces time spent on interruptions and problem solving. And it’s your real job.
[tags]management, CEO skills, entrepreneur, small business owner [/tags]