Welcome to part 4 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!
When you asked for “one piece of advice” that made a dramatic impact on my team it took me less than a nanosecond to imagine my reply. Doing regular check-ins with my staff has easily been the greatest driver of success for my team. But it’s not just the meeting together – that’s something I have done regularly for years. (You had a few, for sure!) It’s been the structure of the meetings that has had the most powerful influence.
I started by doing a once a month thing, but early last year when one of my staff guys mentioned he had difficulty prioritizing his work, we decided to start meeting every week. It was revolutionary. I started to understand his work, his challenges, his dreams, his passions, his strengths and his weaknesses. In short, I started to understand “him”. He had always been a smart, hard-working guy, but soon after we started meeting he began to produce more work, better work, and more importantly, the right work.
I looked around my department, (and in the mirror), and realized I had not been leading my team well. I needed to make a some major adjustments.
I won’t bore you with all the details, but I put something together the staff could fill out 24 hours before our meeting. That gave me the opportunity to gather my thoughts before we met. I included questions in the following areas:
- Overall productivity
- Priorities for the next week
- Long-term goals
- Values and virtues I wanted to see them exhibit
- Ways they impacted their team
- Personal and professional development
- Ways I can help them
It sounds like a lot, but in reality it’s been pretty easy to do, and the meetings are typically only 15-20 minutes long. Most importantly, after just one or two check-ins, I think all of us began to experience a change. Based on the feedback I received, the staff were feeling known, heard and directed (in a good way). They had a much better idea of what they were supposed to accomplish, and they were proud when they delivered! They also began to feel like I was their advocate – that I was “in it” with them and that I’d help them succeed any way I could.
For me as a manager, the check-ins have given me the opportunity to help make sure we’re all aligned around the same mission. It also helped me begin to crystalize our company’s short and long-term goals. I began to see the “important work”, and I made sure it was getting done. We moved forward MUCH more quickly, and it started to feel like we were doing the right things.
While I’m not saying that somehow the weekly check-ins are the magic elixir that will dissolve every problem, I am saying it didn’t take long to feel like the office was a different place. There was a buzz…an energy – the energy that happens in an office when people feel like they’re accomplishing important stuff.
I hope this is helpful for you! I’ve become a big fan of these regular check-ins Michael, and I think you will be, 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