Saturday, August 28, 2010

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine : For Managers

Management is not sexy - its a boring and routine job. Its also not an adorable role. A Manager is generally not perceived as an interesting or friendly figure. In the role of a “Project cum People Manager”, you mostly end up playing the role of a Bad cop. You are accountable for Results, you have to enforce Processes to achieve the Results, and, in between the “Result” and “Process”, your “Relationship” with your direct reports starts suffering damage.

A good Manager is the one who influences his team to attain desired objectives. He can get things done (through his team) today and tomorrow. He is collaborative, he is flexible, and he is receptive. He demonstrates that he cares about his team members – Engagement is the key to success. And to engage, he conducts regular 1:1s with his team members.

The 1:1s are a very structured format and framework for maintaining robust communication and strong relationship/bonding with your direct reports. Regular 1:1 (preferably 30 minutes every week) with your direct reports is one of the most effective management tools. It will keep you connected and informed. Remember that you control their organizational success and they’ll feel miserable if they think they are not getting enough of your time.

You may argue that you talk to your team members all the time; OR you don’t have enough time to have individual 1:1s with all of them; OR there won’t be enough agenda to discuss everyweek; OR this will be boring; OR etc. etc. But, as a Manager, investing your time in your people is one of the safest and most profitable investments you can ever make – low risk and high gains. When you start spending dedicated time for individual 1:1s, you’ll start receiving lesser unplanned interruptions and will actually have more time for Strategic thinking. You may think that there won’t be items to discuss in weekly 1:1s, but you will be surprised to receive Too Much Information from your direct reports. Also, just think about it - When you currently talk to them on daily (or hourly) basis, don’t you just talk about nuts and bolts of work? The purpose and focus of weekly 1:1 is different. It is (should always be) – Your Direct Report, His development/growth plan, his myTimeline, his mySWLD matrix, and, last but not the least, Establishing stronger relationship/bonding between the two of you.

Schedule in advance. Book 30 minutes weekly slot (avoid Monday morning and Friday evening slots). Design specific agenda for your 1:1s – 15 minutes for employee, 5 minutes for you, 10 minutes for future. Agenda should be result oriented and focused on things which are valuable for the Direct Report. Help him play his strengths (fill his “strengths” quadrant of mySWLD matrix), help him maximize the conversion ratio between his potential/abilities and his productive output, help him improve in the needed areas (empty his “weakness” quadrant of mySWLD matrix), help him get opportunity to contribute in his liking areas (address his “liking” & “disliking” quadrants of mySWLD matrix), and help him come out of his comfort zone. If you don’t know who your Direct Report is and what’s most important for him, you can’t inspire him because he won’t believe that you care about him. But if you can demonstrate that you care about him, he will do anything for you. He will become more loyal, more disciplined, more efficient and more effective.

Prepare for five minutes before the 1:1 starts. Ask yourself:
  1. Was there any action item for me from the last 1:1?
  2. What positive feedback can I give?
  3. What adjusting feedback am I going to give?
  4. What checkpoint(s) am I going to discuss against his quarterly goals?
  5. What is one thing “new” that I am going to coach/mentor/guide him on?
If you observe that your Direct Report is not interacting enough in the meeting (and the meeting is becoming more of a monologue/lecture/preaching than the desired two-way-communication/ interactive dialogue), you may encourage him to come prepared with the notes to take full advantage of this session. How? Encourage them to use the tool I have provided in my next blog, “5 Minutes Self Analysis a Day Keeps Professional Diseases Away”...