One on Ones is the most effective management tool we've ever used. The great managers, the GREATEST managers, have great relationships with their directs, and make an effort to get to know them really well. The One on One which we recommend is a 'teachable equivalent' to that behavior. It's an actionable 'to-do list' which will get you from where you are now, to having those great relationships. And, talking 'all the time' to your people, is no substitute for regularly scheduled One on Ones. They will give you more time back too — we know you can't believe that now, but it's true!
When: Schedule your One on Ones weekly with each direct. The time is the same, every week — it's a repeating meeting on your calendar. Miss these appointments ONLY in direst emergency. That you arrange your calendar around these meetings tells your directs they are important. Never cancel. If you HAVE to, reschedule immediately.
How Long: 30 minutes. 10 minutes for them, 10 minutes for you, 10 minutes for the future. They go first — this meeting is for them. Eighty percent of the time, you'll end up with 15/15 and that's ok.
About What: Their 10 minutes is about whatever they want to talk about — no matter what you think. This is how you build relationships. Each One on One with each direct will be subtly different. In your 10 minutes, you can talk about what you want (work probably!). This is not a waterfall meeting though — it's not for setting lists of tasks. In the future section, you'll talk about your direct's development. Some topics are too big for the One on One and will need their own meeting.
Where: Don't hold your One on One's in public, obviously, but private isn't necessary either. Your office is fine if you have one, or your cubicle as long as you aren't overheard. Don't schedule a conference room — that's scary!
Preparation: Before each One on One, check your notes from previous weeks. Think about what you need to communicate to you direct in terms of behaviors, projects and coaching. What feedback do you need to give? What can you delegate to this direct? Write down the questions you want to ask.
Your Behaviors: Make your One on One's conversational: make a statement then reply with a question, reply to their questions by making a statement and then asking a question. Listen effectively: clear your desk to prevent distractions. Don't interrupt! Take great notes: we recommend the Cornell Notetaking method, and in addition, learn to abbreviate and use your own shorthand. Note down deliverables for next week.
One on ones can be just as effective over the phone as in person. For times when you or your direct are traveling, or for when your direct is located remotely from you, a phone one on one follows the same format as your in-person one on ones.
There are however, there are some things you can do to make them go more smoothly.
Webcams Are Better But A Luxury: Webcams are better than phones in the same way that face to face is better than phones. The additional information gleaned from being able to see your directs body language is very helpful. It's not an invasion of privacy to use a webcam when your direct is working from home: they are in their workplace! However, if it's not possible for whatever reason, just phone is also acceptable.
It Works Better If We Call Them: By calling your direct, you let them know that they are important. And, if we let our direct call us, the meeting is less likely to happen. Our directs get busy, and are less easily able to escape from an activity than us. This meeting is as important as any in a conference room: make it happen.
More Document Sharing Is Necessary: Work product is an essential workplace behavior. Because we are able to see less of the other behaviors (the words we say, how we say them, our facial expressions and body language), effective managers ask for more documents in advance to give us more opportunity to assess the quality and quantity of our directs' work product, and to allow us to give them feedback on it. Additionally, having material in advance ensures we do not spend our One on One looking for or reading documents for the first time.
Interruptions Are More Frequent Without Focus: You will be interrupted much more frequently when you are on the phone than in face to face One on One. We have three recommendations to help you focus. One: start with your back turned. Being able to see out over your office will distract you. When you really need to concentrate, close your eyes. Two: ignore interruptions. If someone approaches and/or stands waiting, turn your back. If they start to speak, smile and point to the phone. If they touch your shoulder, hold up a hand, but don't turn to face them. Third: focus. Turn off your mail, shut down your browser, quit other programs. Concentrate on your direct.
Project Manager One on Ones improve communication in matrix organizations. The only change is that instead of 10 minute for the direct, 10 for the manager, and 10 for the future, Project Manager (PM) One on Ones follow 15 minutes for the direct and 15 minutes for the manager. We don't have much say in what their future will be so we don't reserve time for it. That's not to say it won't come up, but we leave it to their manager to schedule time for it. Three weeks is the shortest project that a One on One will be valuable for.
Follow The Basic Principles: Focus on the direct and regularly scheduled, rarely missed. Thirty minutes long. Your cube or phone is fine.
Rollout Guidance: Follow most of our early rollout guidance (which can be found on the main screen of this Trinity Tab of the iPhone app). Introduce the concept of PM One on Ones in an early meeting — in the kickoff meeting if you can, but if that's not possible, then another early meeting. Use the Project Management email invite here, and offer 1.5 times the number of team members you have, and offer those times in the email. Instead of waiting for 3 weeks for schedules to clear, start straight away.
Some Minor Differences: These One on Ones will naturally have more of a project/task update rather than personal/global focus than other One on Ones. We hold these One on Ones only during the project: no matter how much the team member wants them to continue, we are not their manager and outside of the project, there is no need to have One on Ones with them.
Team Member Pushback: Team member pushback is not uncommon. Ask for the meeting first, letting team members know this is how you manage projects, that it will help with communication, it's only half an hour a week and it will get them guaranteed time with you regularly. If there is still pushback, insist. "I respect that you may not want to. I'm going to suggest we try it, and see how it goes. It's how I manage projects, and it works. I'll send you a email requesting a quick half hour project update, and hopefully you'll accept. To me, it's not a lot to ask, and it's like any other project meeting that members are obligated to attend."
Manager Pushback: There is no need to consult a team member's manager in order to get approval for a One on One. If they ask about the meeting or give feedback from their direct about the meeting, let them know what it's for and why it's important to the project. In many cases, they will accept that it's a requirement of your projects. If the manager refuses to allow his direct to meet with you, capitulate. Lose the battle, win the war.
Your job as a manager is to achieve results and results are nothing but aggregated behavior. Feedback encourages effective behavior. The Feedback model rewards effective behavior and ineffective behavior gets changed. Any manager can do this and almost none do; we put personal preference in front of organizational design. In the same way that you want more feedback from your manager about how you are doing, your directs want more feedback from you on how they are doing – even if they don't tell you that!
Feedback Step 1: Ask. Whether the feedback is affirming or adjusting, we ask. The purpose of feedback is to encourage effective behavior. Your direct is in control of that! If we want our direct to change their behavior, they have to be in a position to listen to the feedback. Just ask: "May I give you some feedback?". If they say no, just let it go. Either they'll change their behavior on their own, or you'll get another chance to give the feedback.
Feedback Step 2: Describe Behavior. Behavior is what you can see and hear: we don't guess at our direct's motivation or intent. Attitude is not behavior – it's an inference. Here's how it sounds: "When you're late 4 times this week", "When you stay an extra hour to run down the issue", "When you don't blow up when the customer insults you", When you make the extra call to keep the customer informed".
Feedback Step 3: Describe Impact. Tell them what the results of their behavior are. They don't have to be big or important impacts. Ideally, they are tailored to the recipient. "Here's what happens: the customer calls to thank me", "I notice your extra effort", "I appreciate it and the team's job is much easier", "Our case for the new hire is that much stronger".
Feedback Step 4: Future Behavior. When giving affirming feedback, finish with thanks. If giving adjusting feedback, ask "What can you do differently next time?", or "Is there a better way?".
When you begin giving feedback, your directs may disagree. They could just be defensive, or you could have strayed from the model and discussed something other than behavior, allowing them to argue with you. Attitude is not a behavior — it's a conclusion. If you can't hear it or see it, it's not behavior.
Remember, the purpose of feedback is to encourage effective behavior — it's future based. Feedback often goes badly because we've focused on past behavior, because we've wanted to punish our direct or 'teach them a lesson'. We don't care if they have learned their lesson — we just care that they don't repeat the behavior in the future. And if they do, more feedback. And if they don't, GREAT! We achieved our objective.
Don't argue! You've already fired a shot across the bow — they KNOW you know. The discussion of the details in the past. They are 'on notice'. Smile. Their defensiveness is ineffective, they are not thinking about the future. They are trying to change this occasion into a big deal and you are already past it. It's gone.
If they say it's not true, or you're wrong, agree and step away. They heard you already!
Note: What is a shot across the bow? When navy ships come into dicey situations, they fire a shot across the bow. It is ENORMOUSLY DIFFERENT than a warning shot, and here's why. In order to shoot across the enemy's bow, the enemy ship must be in range, and now the enemy ship knows it. Furthermore, if the law of the seas is that you warn someone with a shot across their bow, the fact that you CAN do so means you control your weaponry well enough that you could have, had you so chosen, fired a shot directly amidships, or... If you had wanted to, you could have done damage. Basically, you're saying, If I want to, I CAN sink you.
Project Managers have virtually NO official authority in any organization, despite often enormous responsibilities. However, project managers ARE responsible for performance, and we need a way to talk to the project team about performance.
This model modifies the original feedback model and allows us to talk about performance without role power. We eliminate step 1 (asking they are willing to receive feedback) and step 2 (asking for a change in behavior).
Remember, the purpose of feedback is to encourage effective behavior — not to punish, reward, remind, shame or inspire. We encourage our direct to feel or do better in the future. The topic of feedback is behavior.
State the behavior: "When you're late", "When you yell at Terry". Focus on what they did.
Describe the impact: "When you're late, it slows us down", "When you stay polite when a customer yells, it makes me proud to be your boss". Any impact of the behavior observed can be used.
Rather than ask for a change of behavior, we leave this thought: "You did this thing, this thing happened, just thought you'd want to know". If you'd prefer, leave in the words 'Just thought you'd want to know".
A PM can use this model for anyone of any rank, but only within the context of the project: only for the people on the project, only for the duration of the project and only for stuff related to the project.
Coaching is the Manager Tools method of asking directs to improve their performance. You can coach all your directs in 10 minutes a week each. You are not the trainer, you're the coach and your directs are responsible for their own improvement.
Set A Goal. Work with your direct to set the goal – we're not imposing coaching on her, we're providing her a framework to focus on her own development. Use measurable time limited goals (the MT from SMART). It's ok to set intermediate goals if you're unclear, but generally a coaching goal will take eight weeks or more. Write the goal down on your One on One form. How it sounds: "By 24 February, you'll report a completed handoff", "By 3 March, you'll present, the weekly report".
Brainstorm Resources. Do this with your direct. There are no stupid ideas; make as big a pile as you can in three minutes. The goal is volume, not accuracy or quality. Write down the list so you can use it later. You may use the pile serially or only one resource or several together.
Plan Some Actions. Pick a resource from the pile. Let your direct have significant input — they will be the one doing the work. Who cares how they do it, if they get there? List some sequential tasks for using the resource, give them due dates and that's your plan!
Act. Your direct implements the plan. He reports to you weekly on progress. When he meets the goal, celebrate! When he is late, adjust the plan. Meet repeated lateness with feedback. If you run out of resources, go around the circle again.
Interpersonal skills usually come down to communication and since changing the way a direct receives communication is easier than changing their outgoing communication, at least initially use measures around their reception:
Coach your directs until they run an effective meeting:
Delegation is the way great managers grow organizational capability. There is no need to find or create work for our directs. We teach them to do our job by giving them our work.
The Model. First, state your need for help. "Rob, I need your help on something". Then, tell them why you're asking THEM: "You're the closest to this customer", "You're our best negotiator", "You're most in need of growth in this area, and I trust you". Ask for specific acceptance: "Would you please take over the monthly project meeting?". Now describe the task or project in details: "Here's what's involved…".
Delegation: Go over deadline and quality standards: "You'll report out on the 15th of each month and here's the template". Nail down reporting standards: "I want weekly updates, in our O3 with R/A/G and concerns". Ask for skills/resource needs: "What do you need from me?"
Don't Delegate Your Primary Responsibility: Avoid the temptation to delegate what you don't like. Never delegate tasks where a slipup would concern your boss.
Effective Executives Over-Delegate Constantly: Do delegate nearly everything else. Effective executives delegate much much more than average managers and the ability to delegate well is central to executive success. Executive think only of what they MUST do and over-schedule there. Every minute we spend on doing something someone else could do, is a minute not spent doing something ONLY we could do.
Delegate What They Are Good At, Need Or Want. Analyze each of your directs, deciding what they are good at, what they need in to develop in and where they want to contribute. Then assign responsibilities.
One Final Caveat: When we first start delegating, we don't delegate everything all at once. The transition process is harder than doing it ourselves. Initially, delegate one responsibility per direct. Once they have successfully accepted their new tasks, then add more.
The Manager Tools Trinity is designed to work together, but not to be implemented all at once. That's too hard for you and your directs. Assess where you already are, and join the process there.
Start with One on Ones.
Conduct One on Ones for six to eight weeks. The relationships you will develop will make the next stages easier.
Move on to Feedback.
Once you feel you and your team is ready, announce feedback in your weekly staff meeting. Give positive feedback to your top performers first, and after three to four weeks to the rest of the team. In six to eight more weeks, add negative feedback to top performers — when YOU feel ready, not when they start asking. Finally add negative feedback for the rest of the team, once you feel comfortable with it.
Start coaching slowly.
After six to eight more weeks,coach each direct around one subject.
Great managers act upon the core of the Trinity. By developing great relationships with their directs through one on ones, trust is built. This relationship is the basis for candor about performance. The frequent unflinching communication about performance, feedback, follows. Performance is what you're paid to achieve as a manager. Not liking performance communication is no excuse for not doing it, it's the core communication of your role as manager.
The rollout works in a number of situations. When you are newly promoted to lead former peers, even if your boss used the Trinity previously, you have to establish a new relationship as the manager – you start over. When you’re leading a newly formed team, go slow — even if some or all of them know the Trinity. When you take over an existing team, you have no relationship with them, and you need to begin those relationships with One on Ones.
Manager Tools the company is a management consulting and training firm owned by Michael Auzenne and Mark Horstman. We regularly consult to and train managers in Fortune 1000 companies around the world. Mike and Mark are both United States Military Academy graduates (West Point) and former Army officers. Mike’s corporate career included executive assignments in technology and Program Management for MCI and Bell Atlantic as well as several entrepreneurial pursuits in the restaurant and retail fitness industries. Mark was a manager and executive in sales and marketing at Procter & Gamble. Prior to Manager Tools, Mark performed Executive Coaching and Consulting as a sole owner for 15+ years.
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