This article was based on episode 062 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, and Stitcher.
How often do you meet with each of your team members? Not in a group setting–where you’re working on a project or gathering as a team–just individually, to support them in whatever ways they need.
They may not always ask for it, but your team members may be secretly thirsting for more of your attention. While they don’t want you to micromanage them, they do want your help.
Chris Zaugg discovered how transformative it can be when you start regularly checking in with each of your team members. A number of years ago, one of Chris’s team members asked for a standing weekly check in so that Chris could help him prioritize his work for the week. From that single request came an entirely new approach to management.
Chris has been leading people for over 40 years. He has trained people in leadership principles and communication all over the world, and loves to share what he's learned from other leaders. He currently serves and the President of OPIN Systems.
MEET WITH EVERY PERSON EVERY WEEK
It may seem impossible or ridiculously time consuming but in Chris’s experience, it’s quite the opposite. By spending 15 minutes each week with each person, he stays close to the work and to them.
Typical one-on-ones are 30 minutes to an hour and only occur every month. The purpose of the one-on-one is the employee whereas the purpose of the check-in is primarily the work, although Chris has found that supporting the work inherently also means supporting the person.
This dual closeness enables him to:
Support each person to “win every day” (or leave work feeling great about what they accomplished because they know they worked on the most important things);
Understand each person–their career goals, what motivates them, etc–which builds trust, helps him better identify and offer opportunities for relevant skill development, etc.;
Ensure each person is living the team values and collaborating well with their colleagues;
Align work-streams or remove roadblocks so work can happen faster and more smoothly; and
Learn what’s working and what’s not, so the team can continually learn and improve.
DESIGN THE 15 MINUTE CHECK-IN
While the first few check-ins may be a bit awkward or take a little longer than 15 minutes, you and your team members will soon fall into a healthy rhythm. Chris suggest the following process to make the most of your weekly check-ins
Set A Recurring Schedule. Aligning calendars can a big pain, so Chris suggests scheduling standing check-ins and ensuring the calendar is blocked and the time is reserved. Hold these meetings early in the week to help people start on the right path. Chris has four Monday morning and four Tuesday morning.
Use a Form to Organize the Prepare for the Conversation. Prior to meeting, Chris asks people to complete a basic form in which they list what they believe are their priorities for the week along with a few other reflection questions. This helps the person get their thoughts in order and provides a quick entry into the conversation.
Ask Similar Questions Each Week. Keep it simple by asking a few consistent questions each week. Mix it up a bit by asking one or two questions that rotate. Questions might be:
How did you do with last week’s priorities?
What are you most excited about for this week?
What are you most proud of from last week?
Did anything keep you from being productive last week?
When did you feel most productive?
What are your goals or aspirations?
What do you want to do more of? Less of?
In what ways are you feeling aligned with our team values?
How are you doing on a personal level?
Keep Decent Notes. You’ll learn a lot during these conversations. Chris suggests capturing the highlights so you can easily reference them at your one-on-ones, during performance reviews, or when it’s time for employee recognition.
BE INVESTED AND OTHERS WILL TOO
When you first introduce the concept of weekly check-ins, you may get mixed levels of enthusiasm. While some team members will be eager for this type of regular alignment, others may feel you’re trying to micro-manage them or that they already feel stressed for time or even that this is just another ploy for you to waste time “being a manager.”
If you sense push back, offer it as an experiment for a month and then circle back to see how people feel once you’ve had time to experience it first hand.
Once you get going, be sure you’re invested in making these check-in sessions meaningful.
Have the Right Mindset. Keep the conversation informal. Take a walk with your team member, meet at a nearby coffee shop (if that doesn’t feel like an imposition), and use video if meeting virtually.
Listen Actively. Listen carefully to the feedback that your team member provides. Ask questions to deepen your understanding. Show recognition and respect for their opinions to build trust and strengthen your relationship.
Be Personal. Not everything at work is always about work. Connect on a human level, too. Ask about their weekend, family or hobbies. Gauge their level of comfort so as not to pry. Share your personal stories to help break the ice.
Consistent weekly check-ins can have exponential positive impact for you as the manager, for each team member individually, and for the team as a whole.
Join the Modern Manager community and get three months of free access to Uptick, a software to help you with your weekly check-ins. This is doubly special because you get to skip the waitlist and start using Uptick right now.
This article was based on episode 062 of The Modern Manager podcast. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to The Modern Manager Podcast on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify and Stitcher. Never miss a worksheet, episode or article: subscribe to Mamie’s newsletter.
You can also listen to every episode here.
KEEP UP WITH CHRIS
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