Welcome to part 2 of our “Training a New Manager” series. I’ve been a managing people for a long time, and when one of my guys asked me some questions about where to start, we began the email trail you see here. (This is part one of what will be several more!) We decided to publish it and dedicate it to new managers who are trying to figure out how to lead their people. Do you have something to share? Feel free to share your tips in the comment section below!
Thanks for sharing a bit about your early experience with your team. I’m glad a few things from my last email were helpful to you! My only encouragement along those lines is to remember that the principles of asking questions and listening to your staff isn’t just for the first few weeks of your tenure – it’s something that will help you every day as you lead your team.
Your question regarding how to make meetings meaningful and valuable is a good one. To be honest, as a young leader I called meetings because my boss did. We’d get together, discuss whatever the most talkative person in the room wanted to talk about, and I think my team generally left feeling like I had wasted their time. My failure got me asking “Why should we have meetings at all?”, and this is what I came up with:
- To share information best given in person. You need to be careful here. Sometimes we call meetings when the information would be easily delivered via email. I think it’s best to avoid those, but there are some issues, particularly where it is going to affect people and their work, that are best discussed when people can see the whites of your eyes. Non-verbals are very important, and if there are major changes in process that will change how or why people do their work they will want to see your compassion, your concern, your resolve or anything else that will reassure them it will be okay.
- To solve problems. Let me clarify – not every problem requires a meeting. Some of your staff will want a meeting any time their main concern needs discussion! Don’t fall for it! Still, sometimes you have a problem that will require input from different departments, or just different perspectives. In those circumstances meeting together can cut through the fog more quickly than a written thread, and modeling how to process through difficult issues will also help your staff grow.
- To make decisions. While there are some decisions easily made via email or Slack, some require context and discussion. And sometimes making decisions in a meeting is simply good for your culture, where you as a leader listen and empower your staff. In a meeting like this, it’s important to let people know your intention – that you want to walk away with a decision. Resist putting off the decision until you have more meetings unless absolutely necessary. If you decide you’re going to decide, then you should decide.
- To let people show off a little. Providing a platform for people show their work and get some kudos from their peers is good for your culture, and will ultimately build some trust between you and your team. They’ll know you’re watching and that you’re not just looking for their mistakes, but you’re looking to build them up!
Of course, this isn’t a comprehensive list. There a number of good reasons to call a meeting, but I mention these because they give me some structure. After all, every time I call a meeting I am essentially taking time away from staff productivity, so unless it will increase productivity or build valuable momentum, I may want to think of another way to handle whatever it is I’m trying to accomplish. A good rule of thumb? “What will this meeting cost me?”
I hope this is helpful, Michael! If you have any tips for me I’d love to hear them, too. I want to learn, too!
Are you a new manager? If so, feel free to ask a question by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll add great questions in our upcoming posts! Check out the other posts in the series:
1. 3 critical tips for new managers—ask questions, listen to the answers and take action
2. 4 reasons to have meaningful meetings—if you have to!
3. 3 reasons to avoid stand-ups and recurring meetings when you can
4. How weekly check-ins can change your company culture