Episode: How to Do One-on-One Meetings
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Megan Hyatt Miller: Hi! I’m Megan Hyatt Miller, and this is Lead to Win, our weekly podcast to help you win at work and succeed at life. In this episode, we’re talking about how to keep your team members motivated and engaged without micromanaging. This is the third in a mini-series I have been doing on topics I’m particularly passionate about with some really special guests. To that end today, I’m joined by Suzie Barbour who is our Senior Director of Operations. She has a lot of experience leading teams including our operational team here at Michael Hyatt & Company. Hey, Suzie! Thanks for joining us!
Suzie Barbour: Hey, Megan! Thank you! I’m excited to be here.
Megan: Well, I’m excited to have you here, because this is a hard topic, especially when we start thinking about leading direct reports, and so many leaders fall into this trap of micromanaging. Have you seen that?
Suzie: Yeah, absolutely! I think this is something, again, that isn’t always taught in college. Right? You’re an entrepreneur. You start a business. All of a sudden, you jump in and you have a team to lead. Did you ever take a class on what meeting rhythm is appropriate and most productive to run your direct reports so they feel led well and connected while you’re achieving your goals? No. Probably not.
It’s really easy for leaders to jump right into micromanaging or a couple of other things. We all kind of have tendencies, but micromanaging can be really hard, and it’s a way to kind of take control in the beginning when you feel out of control. All of a sudden, you have this team you’re trying to direct and lead and you don’t have a good rhythm to address that.
Megan: What other trap have you seen leaders fall into besides micromanaging?
Suzie: I see leaders who get really hands-on and do micromanage, and it’s almost like they’re controlling, and they have to be involved in every decision, and they’re wanting to talk multiple times a day all day. Nobody can be productive. Then, I see the other side of the pendulum with that where you have leaders who almost abdicate.
They just basically feel they don’t have time for meetings, and they like to work alone, and that’s not the best use of their time (lead the team or be in meetings). All of a sudden, you have a team that’s not productive because they don’t have direction or guidance from their leader or a place to touch base. I see both micromanaging and abdicating from leaders.
Megan: And sometimes in the same leader.
Suzie: Yes! Sometimes.
Megan: Sometimes you can go back and forth.
Suzie: Yeah! I’ve seen this happen so many times where leaders will say, “We’re going to try this new meeting rhythm,” and it’s too much, way over the top, so instead of just trying to fix that, we’ll be like, “Never mind! We’re not meeting!” We just go to the other extreme, which is not productive either.
Megan: In either of those situations, what is the consequence?
Suzie: Well, the consequence is that it results in constant brushfires and constant emergencies. You start to feel like a firefighter who is always putting something out and responding instead of architecting your business and building it. You want to be an architect and not a firefighter, and there’s a way to do that kind of with your team in business.
It just results in a lot of emergencies, because proper communication channels are not being followed and people don’t have a place to bring their questions or solve problems. Then, you also get low morale. You find in your culture all of a sudden that you have people who feel like they’re not cared for by their leaders if they’re not checked in on enough or if they’re micromanaged and they feel kind of defeated like they’re not trusted and empowered. It’s kind of a fine balance.
People are always asking in that situation, “What do I do now? What do I do next? What’s my next step?” if they don’t have kind of a great place to get that information from their leader and know what their goals are.
Megan: I think you’re really right, which is why today we have developed this communication rhythm we’re going to talk to you about that guarantees your team members are motivated, well-resourced, and highly productive. When you use this structure for your personal contact with your direct reports, you’ll move from responding or reacting to problems to resourcing your team for success, which is a huge shift!
Your own bandwidth is going to increase as you become freed up from the micromanaging and all of the problems that come from not doing this well, and your team will be more engaged and independent than ever before. To help facilitate that conversation, Larry, our Senior Content Creator, is here. Hey, Larry!
Larry Wilson: Hey! How are you?
Megan: I’m doing great! I’m glad you’re with us.
Larry: Yeah! Suzie, it’s good to see you in that chair again!
Suzie: Oh, I love being here. It’s always so fun. Literally, this is so fun.
Megan: Suzie is like our unofficial third co-host.
Suzie: Can someone give me a mug or something or a shirt that says that?
Larry: Are you guys fans of the show, The Office?
Megan: Of course!
Larry: Do you remember the episode called “Survivor Man”? This is the one where Michael kind of decides he’s going to go off into the wilderness by himself, and Jim is kind of left in charge. It turns into this big mess-up of Jim trying to plan birthday parties. Everybody winds up being mad at Jim.
The funny thing is that Jim was making all of the same bad boss mistakes he had made fun of Michael for making for so many years. How does it seem like we always wind up becoming the boss we didn’t want to be? Like the micromanaging, the abdicating… We see it in other people, but we kind of default into that. Why does that happen?
Megan: It’s not unlike being a parent. Right? You think you’re going to be great at it until you go to do it and you realize it’s harder than it looks.
Suzie: “My kids are never going to behave like that! I’m never going to have those challenges.”
Megan: No child of mine will melt down at Chick-fil-A.
Suzie: Just you wait.
Megan: That’s right. Well, I think this is because managing people is really hard. Any time people are involved, it’s challenging, and nobody teaches you how to be a boss. I mean, even if you have an MBA, the interpersonal part of being a boss plus all of the productivity strategies are really elusive, I think, and we kind of figure it out as we go and learn from the bosses we’ve had before us, and some of those, like Michael Scott, are not great bosses.
We’ve been in organizations that had either a toxic culture or just really ineffective leadership, and we’re just sort of left to our own devices to figure this out, so we just default to one of those two extremes of abdicating or micromanaging. I think that’s why you really need an intentional rhythm here for this one-to-one contact with your direct reports, because your team doesn’t need more accountability measures probably. What they really need is more of your focused attention, also not unlike parenting. Right?
Megan: Our people need our focused attention, and when we’re distracted, they’re not getting what they need, and you need to move from responding or reacting to problems to resourcing your team for success using an intentional rhythm.
Suzie: That’s what we talked about with that firefighter versus architect. Right? You really, really want to stop being in a responsive state with your team and really start creating with them and just being a resource for them from the beginning.
Larry: Well, today we’re going to show you how to do that (keeping your team engaged and motivated) by conducting one-on-one contacts at two specific intervals, so let’s start with the first interval which is the weekly check-in.
Megan: This sounds obvious. Right? Of course, you need to meet with your direct reports on a weekly basis, but it’s not. There are so many wrong ways to do this. Suzie, I’d like you to just talk about a few of those.
Suzie: Okay. I think sometimes by having company-wide weekly check-ins and thinking that’s enough if you get everybody in a room one time a week and don’t have individual weekly check-ins people think that sometimes solves all of the problems, and it doesn’t. People need an individual place to connect with their direct supervisor.
We do some hybrid models of that where different teams have sprint plannings and then they do these, but you really need individual time with your direct reports. We’ve tried that before where we had virtual weekly huddles with our whole company before we had our office space, and while there is fun and camaraderie for that, we found that rhythm on a weekly basis is really overkill for people.
I also think people do really, really long weekly one-on-ones with their team members sometimes which is a huge mistake. I once knew an executive who met with his executive assistant almost for a full day once a week, and it was just a killer. You’re just talking about too much. You’re going on. You’re rambling too much. You’re processing. It’s like, really, you probably need three or four other staff members, and you’re requiring that one person to handle too much if that’s how much you have to meet with them, to get things done.
Megan: I think people also go into these meetings, and it’s just this check-in like, “Hey! What’s up? What’s going on?” There is no accountability. There is no solution. There is no real agenda. It’s just like a block on your calendar, and you both get there not really knowing what the point is and what a win looks like for the meeting. That’s a problem, too.
Suzie: People also do this “when we can” check in. It’s not a scheduled time. You never know when the next one is going to come. It’s just, “Hey! I hope I can talk to you for 10 minutes after lunch at this time,” or something like that, and there’s no way to be intentional about your time if you’re just hoping it will happen.
Megan: This is one of the ones I hate the most. The multi-task check-in where you’re meeting with your direct reports, and while you’re meeting with your direct reports, you’re checking your email and you’re answering text messages. You’re not present. You’re not even really there. You’re half listening, trying to do four things at once. You might as well have not done it.
Suzie: Absolutely. No one is getting any value out of that kind of a meeting. There’s also a one-sided check-in which is really interesting. That’s one where the accountability is from just your team member and not you as a leader. You’re basically saying, “Give me a detailed report of your status. Then, go away.”
Or maybe it’s flipped and you don’t allow your team member to talk. That’s a mistake, too, where you’re basically calling in so that you can report and give them all of this information and they don’t have a place to share or ask questions.
Megan: Really, all of these are problematic, because the purpose of a weekly check-in is to empower progress on goals and projects with your direct reports. We can see in all of those examples how that fails to happen. At Michael Hyatt & Company, here’s kind of what our weekly check-in meetings look like.
First of all, we allow about 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the nature of the role for this, and we structure these check-ins around questions. The first one is…What updates do you have for me? The point of this is, as your leader, I need to make sure I am staying with my ear close to the ground. I know what’s going on in my business. I know what’s going on with my team and the people who are on the front lines (my direct reports) are my access point to that. I want to make sure I get those updates.
Secondly…What decisions do you need me to make? This is key, because very often you are the person holding your direct reports up. Their progress on goals and projects is being impeded by your slowness to make a decision. You’re not making a decision. You don’t know you need to make a decision; therefore, they can’t move forward. So if there is a time and a place each week where they can get you to make key decisions that allow them to move forward, that’s really, really helpful here.
The third question is…What progress have you made on your quarterly milestones? If you have annual goals, you also have quarterly milestones you’re working toward. As a leader, you want to create accountability. You want to know before somebody misses a goal that they’re behind or they’re struggling. If you can stay connected to the progress they’re making on those quarterly milestones on a regular basis, it’s really, really helpful.
Finally…What problems are blocking your progress? This is a really important question, because your people have problems. The problems your people have may even be you or a decision you haven’t made, but you are very likely the best person to help remove those obstacles.
Suzie: Absolutely! The thing I love so much about the blocking-your-progress question that I use with my direct reports and I know you do, too, is, if they don’t do this on their own (oftentimes they will), I’ll ask about capacity and margin in that question. A lot of times I’ve noticed if you don’t check in on margin with your direct reports regularly, by the time they say, “I’m under water, and I don’t have enough staffing, and I’m under-resourced and I need help,” you don’t have any options at that point other than to make a hire mid-year, which cannot always be financially doable as a leader.
But if you’re checking on them on a regular basis, you can say, “I think So-and-so from this department could actually help you out,” or “Let’s see if we can find a creative solution to that problem. Maybe we push that deadline back to next quarter.” I think in the problems question, it gives them a chance to tell you where they’re at not only just with practical problems in the business but also if it’s just capacity, you can solve that before it’s out of control in that area, too, which is huge.
Megan: That is such a good word. To review these questions the first is…What updates do you have for me? The second is…What decisions do you need me to make? The third is…What progress have you made on your quarterly milestones? The fourth is…What problems are blocking your progress? Suzie, what pitfalls do leaders need to be mindful of avoiding with these check-ins?
Suzie: They need to be really careful about canceling without rescheduling. Consistency is key here because you want to respect this time, or the team member will feel undervalued. Consistent meetings avoid a buildup of problems and frustration here. Basically, you know you’re going to have a place to connect with your leader on a regular basis to get the solutions you need, and if that meeting gets cancelled all of the time, and especially if it doesn’t get rescheduled, there is just not the consistency there.
Megan: Suzie, can I tell a story on myself?
Suzie: Yes, please. I love when you tell stories.
Megan: This is kind of outing myself here. I went through a period a couple of years ago. I don’t remember exactly what was going on, but I was a little bit overwhelmed. I had a lot of direct reports, and I was struggling to fit in my other commitments, so my solution was, because I sort of generally regard my calendar as a palate that I am painting with and I can pick and choose what I want from it, which is not quite that dramatic, but to some degree that’s true, I started from time to time canceling meetings or moving meetings.
Finally, we were in an executive team meeting, and one of my direct reports said when I was kind of creating some space for candor, “I just have to tell you that when you reschedule our meetings, it is a domino effect on my whole calendar for the week, and it messes everything up. If you could just not do that, it would be so helpful.”
I was like… Face palm! I can’t believe I missed that. I was unintentionally disrespecting my direct reports. Not only was I not meeting their needs because they weren’t having the opportunity to get their needs met, but I was also just not realizing the ripple effect I was creating on a scheduling front.
Suzie: Totally! What we’re talking about here is not that there’s no flexibility. Of course, your kids are going to get sick. You’re going to have a project that comes up that you just need extra space to finish once in a while. What we don’t want you to be is a repeat offender in this area. It happens. It happens to all of us. Honestly, when you’re overwhelmed it’s a way to kind of avoid sometimes or just adjust with the overwhelm that you’re feeling, so definitely consistency is key.
Also, one of the things that leaders should be careful not to do in these meetings is to be the answer person all of the time. What we mean by that when we say that is you want to help your team solve their own problems. One of the questions you’re always asking is…Can you tell me more about that?
I love when you say that, because it really helps us dive deep on the thoughts we’re sharing with you, but then you’ll often follow up with…What do you think you could do to solve that? What do you think you need to solve that? What you’re doing is you’re allowing us and prompting us to do creative thinking. You’re not providing the answers. And that’s how we grow.
Sometimes we need you to provide answers and insight, but your team also needs to hear that you trust them to create those answers and that you’re interested in their feedback. Sometimes they just need a little bit of a challenge, so not being the answer person who solves all of the problems is really important.
Megan: Well, it also comes from the place that I really believe my direct reports have most of the answers they need within themselves. Certainly, I want to be a resource and a coach wherever I can, but you guys are the experts on your area of responsibility. You know much more about it than I do. That’s why I’ve hired you.
You’re smarter than I am in those areas. What I can best do to serve you is to create space for you to think creatively about solutions and then confirm those things as they come up. It takes some practice to not jump in kind of with a Savior complex, but what you’ll find is you have a pretty brilliant team when you step back.
Suzie: That is so empowering, too. That’s such an empowering position for a leader to take with their team, which I love being one of your direct reports. It’s great! I think going off the agenda is another pitfall we should talk about, because I feel like with these questions you’ve shared, one thing that makes our meetings so successful is that we ask our team to prepare their answers to those questions ahead of time.
If they’ve prepared things and they need a bunch of stuff from you and you constantly take over the agenda and talk about something different, you’re creating the same kind of problem where they’re not getting the answers they need from you. Sticking to an agenda, even if you create your own that is different from the one we use at Michael Hyatt & Company, is really important, again, for consistency and rhythm.
Larry: That’s the first interval of one-on-one meetings that make for successful communication. It is the weekly check-in, and the key here is to schedule it and do it. It’s just a vital communication link.
Mike Boyer: Hey, everybody! Mike Boyer here. Do you know someone who can benefit from this episode? Why not help them out with the link? Text this episode to a leader who could use help in structuring one-on-ones or, better yet, drop it in your favorite social channel with #leadtowin.
We count on you to spread the word about the podcast, so thank you for helping us get the podcast in front of other leaders, and if you’re not already following Michael and Megan on Instagram, do that today. They love reading your comments and often respond. You can find them on Instagram @MichaelHyatt and @MeganHyattMiller, or you can find those links in the show notes at leadto.win. Thanks!
Larry: Let’s talk about the second interval for one-on-one communication, the quarterly one-on-one.
Megan: I love this quarterly one-on-one, because I think this is kind of the cherry on top when you think about how to add some, “Wow!” to your direct report experience. We think about the weekly meeting. We think about an annual review, but we don’t necessarily think about a quarterly one-on-one.
The purpose of this meeting is to provide an opportunity to connect at a deeper level with your direct report beyond just what is urgent and important. Hopefully, the things that are both urgent and important you’re talking about on a weekly basis, but this is really your opportunity to talk about what is important (those things you don’t need to get to today or tomorrow but are significant).
You want to really hear the deeper thoughts and the heart of your direct report and make sure you’re not missing anything. Make sure you’re really staying connected to how they’re doing and what they need so you can support and coach them best. Suzie, why don’t you talk us through these five questions we’ve created to structure these meetings?
Suzie: Yes, but before I do that, I have a personal story to share on this. These questions are literally game-changers, Megan. I was in a season…I’ll just be transparent and candid…with work this year where my role…we’re a rapidly scaling company…has changed significantly.
I lead under operations, facilities, events, HR, customer experience, communication rhythms, our EA team, and all of those things, and I was feeling overwhelmed. That’s a common thing that leaders feel. I just realized I was having a hard time coming up with solutions.
Before we even had this meeting, I used your questions as a journaling exercise, and I literally had a breakthrough. It was better than any therapy I’ve ever paid for! These questions are amazing. I just think they really connect with the heart of the issue, and they’re very solutions-oriented, so I’m excited to share those.
Megan: That’s a great point to make, that when you ask your direct reports to schedule this meeting, you need to share these questions in advance and ask them to think through them in advance, not that they necessarily have to write them out, although I think that’s a great solution, but you want them to spend some time in reflection.
You’ll see what I mean when we get here, but you also need to prepare yourself to hear feedback on your own leadership and what your direct report needs that may feel a little uncomfortable to you. You really need to go into this with a spirit of humility, of supportiveness, and also of courage as the leader to create space for the answers to these questions. Why don’t you tell us about the first question?
Suzie: Yeah. Absolutely. I just want to point out to you that in all of the departments I lead the one-on-one was helping us to be immensely productive, but sometimes there can be kind of deeper issues that don’t get resolved. I’m bringing it, and I’m getting so much done, and we’re achieving so much on that one-on-one, but we’re not getting to the heart of things, which is what these cover.
The first question is…What are your top three goals for the quarter and how are you progressing? This is a similar question we ask on the one-on-one agenda, because goals are important, and to achieve them you have to keep a pulse on them. This question is for their growth not just your information. The focus is what is working, what is not working, and why? They should be leaving feeling hopeful about their prospects of success.
Megan: That’s great! In other words, this is not where they’re sort of on trial and you are their adversary.
Suzie: The second question is…What is the biggest challenge you are facing as a leader now? If you’re not leading other leaders, you could say…What is the biggest challenge you are facing in your role right now? This is about internal roadblocks not external problems or resources. This is an opportunity for self-assessment. You are the coach in this setting, and your team should leave feeling enlightened about their work and their leadership.
Megan: One of the things that happens for leaders, particularly if you are leading leaders… This is probably true in some other contexts, too. You may be the only person your direct report can talk to about these struggles because of the way the chain of command works in your organization.
There’s a real sense of loneliness and isolation that can come in a role like that where they really don’t have anybody they can say to, “This situation is really difficult,” or “I’m really experiencing this kind of self-doubt,” or “I’m worried about failing in this area,” because they’re always talking to people who report to them.
Certainly, again, this is not going to be everybody’s situation, but I guarantee you no matter what level your direct reports sit at they have challenges in their roles (internal challenges with their own mindset, their own beliefs about themselves, their abilities) that if you can tap into, you can lead and coach them so much better.
Suzie: Absolutely! I think it’s important that you do this on a regular basis. Maybe the first couple of times you run this meeting and you use these questions you don’t get that deep of answers from people, because this is new, but once you create a repetitive, safe space for this with your team, you’re going to be really surprised and wowed by what your team brings to the table and how you can coach and help here.
Megan: You also may get answers, especially at first, that are more about situational things. “This person is blocking my progress,” or “I don’t feel like I have the budget for this,” or “I’m really stuck on this project.” That’s good for you to know, too. I mean, whether you get a super-deep therapy answer or you get just insight into something they’re struggling with…
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a conversation where I’ve asked this question or something similar and the problem somebody was struggling with from my perspective was totally simple. I don’t mean that pejoratively. I just mean there was an answer they just weren’t aware of either because they hadn’t thought of it or maybe it was something I could do to help, but we were able to solve it right then and right there.
Suzie: Yeah. That loneliness thing is so key in leadership. I think once you get in a room and you talk about these things, whether the problem is big and is deep and is harder or whether it’s a smaller kind of easier problem to fix, problems are solvable, and it doesn’t always feel that way if you don’t create a space to talk about them and tackle them.
The third question is…What do you think you need to do to overcome that? We are referring back to question two, and you’re doing that thing where you’re not being the answer man but you’re empowering your team member to make suggestions on what they need to fix this problem. You’re avoiding being prescriptive and you’re helping them figure out next steps. It’s far more empowering to put the onus on them, offer ideas, and explore solutions and become really the sage and the coach in this moment.
Megan: I think you’ll be continually impressed by the resourcefulness of your team members. For so many people, they just haven’t had time to think about it. It’s a nagging problem or a frustration, and they’re just in the day-to-day busyness of their work and haven’t had a chance to think through it, and you are creating space for that to happen.
Suzie: Can I tell you a secret?
Suzie: Sometimes when I prepare for these meetings and I do these questions, I solve most of my problems, because I’m like, “I actually don’t need to ask her about that now because I answered this question.” I made time to think about it. It carves out space for that. Then, what I’m bringing is most high leverage once I’ve landed there which is great. The fourth question is…What do you need from me to succeed in this quarter? I love that question.
Megan: I love this question, too, because I want to know specifically how I can serve you. When I think about what leadership really is, if you are leading people you are a servant first and foremost, and if you’re going to get the best out of your team (the best performance or the access to their greatest talent), you are going to have to serve the people you’re leading. If they can tell you what they need, it would be great.
For example, I had one of my direct reports tell me recently they needed approval on a relatively small budget item which was like a linchpin with a project. They just needed some approval there to go over budget. I’m like, “Done! Just go do it! Should we probably get two people for that, because it seems like one might not be enough?”
That person left feeling like they were ready to go, and that probably had caused a ton of stress up to that point of, “Can I do this or can I not do that?” Once they told me what they needed, I was like, “Okay! Go do it!”
Suzie: I think it’s important to point out here that this is not a reverse delegation session. You’re not going to do the work for them necessarily because of this question, so you should be clear about what you will provide and what you can’t. Sometimes, if your staff member says, “My solution or what I need from you is for you to approve a few full-time hires for me, because I need to grow my team right now,” you can’t always do that mid-year (we all know that as leaders), but you might be able to provide other solutions. For them to have the space to just tell you what support they need from you is a great thing.
Megan: They may tell you things like they need a certain kind of change in your leadership style. Now, this is a high-trust answer, so you’re probably not going to get this level of candor. We’re going to get into this a little bit with the next question. They may say they need more encouragement from you.
I’ve had people say, “I need you to contextualize failure for me when it happens, because that’s really difficult for me.” I was like, “Oh! Easy! Done!” Very often, what I see as a “failure” is not what they see, because they’re way harder on themselves. I’ve certainly done that myself. I can be really hard on myself.
They may tell you, “If I could just not come to that regular meeting for the next six weeks, that would give me the time I need to make progress on that goal. Do you think that would be possible?” That’s usually an easy, “Yes,” too, or you can figure out a solution. Having relief from certain responsibilities might be part of what they need to succeed in the next quarter.
Suzie: That is awesome. The fifth question is…What can I avoid doing that would undermine or frustrate your success? I know I said I love all of the questions, but I think this is so important!
Megan: This is so important.
Suzie: We need to be asking this as leaders on a regular basis but certainly quarterly. It’s so important.
Megan: Well, this is a hard one, because it’s easier to give feedback to your team about how you would like to see them improve, but very often as leaders we are insulated from the feedback of our team, so we don’t grow as much as we need to, and we’re likely frustrating them. There is something you keep doing.
Like in my example of continually changing this meeting without really thinking about the ripple effect, I am creating frustration or an obstacle where I don’t need to that is really getting in the way of the progress I’m asking this person to make. You have to go into this with a level of courage and definitely humility. If I could say one thing it’s, when you ask this question, ask it, and shut up.
Suzie: Listen intently.
Megan: Right! Just be quiet. Do not be defensive. Don’t explain why you did it. Just listen and then trust what they’re asking you to not do is really key. I had somebody say to me in answer of this question, “I need you not to pull me into meetings that are not mission critical to this goal you have asked me accomplish, and instead, I need you to rely on this other person who is totally capable.”
I would have defaulted to that. Honestly, that could have been a real problem, and having that answer helped me say, “Okay. I need to make a mental note of that. Every time I want to pull this person into a meeting, I’m not going to do it unless it’s really, really vital.”
Suzie: As a team member who has answered these questions, not only do I use these with my team, but I answer them when I meet with you, Megan. One of the things I said recently, because I think examples here are just so helpful, to you was… We had realized in my role we were going to have to do some restructuring and there had been some overwhelm in some capacity issues.
We were working on that, but I said to you, “To actually not get in my way or frustrate my success, I want you to not stop delegating to me,” because I knew if you knew I was overwhelmed and over capacity… One of my jobs is to take high-level projects off of your plate, and I knew if you stopped delegating to me kind of to protect or help, that would cause bigger problems company wide. Right? I just think sometimes as leaders we’re so afraid of this feedback, but when you open the door, what your team members ask for sometimes is a no-brainer like, “Absolutely!”
Megan: Always actually.
Suzie: I can absolutely make sure you don’t get called into unnecessary meetings. I can absolutely continue to delegate or continue to empower. I think we’re so afraid of feedback sometimes that we don’t create space for this, but oftentimes it’s easier than we think.
Megan: I think so, too. If you happen to have somebody who says nothing like, “You’re just a great leader,” they’re conflict avoiding. First of all, they’re thinking something. They’re just not saying it because they’re not sure they can trust you to handle it well or what it will mean for them.
I would just encourage you, as I said earlier, to stay quiet. “If you did have something you could think of that I could avoid doing, what would it be?” or at the very minimum, “I’d like you to think on that and get back to me tomorrow with an answer.” Really push them here, because what you want to do is create a culture of candor. You want to create a culture of two-way feedback and not one-way feedback where the only feedback is top down. Otherwise, like I said before, you’re insulated and you’re blinded by your lack of coaching from your own team.
Suzie: That’s great. I think there are a few things you can do, too, once the feedback has been shared to help this be really successful. The first thing is I love what you said about listening intently, but after you’ve done that, you should affirm their feelings or the impression that you have even if you disagree with the facts they’ve shared.
You can just say, “I understand how you’re feeling that way,” or “I have compassion for how you got there.” Affirming their feelings and making sure they know their feelings are valid and then clarifying your understanding of what they said to you. How many times have we walked out of meetings?
All of us have done this throughout our whole lives or even in conversations with your spouse when you think someone said this, and they actually think they said that. Sometimes just that step of clarity and gaining clarity by restating what you have heard eliminates a lot of confusion.
Megan: Right! This is just reflective listening. “What I heard you say was the thing I could avoid doing that would undermine or frustrate your leadership is…” Fill in the blank and ask, “Is that true?” Then, let them correct you if you’re not quite accurate. What’s going to happen is they’re going to leave feeling so valued. They’re going to feel heard. They’re going to feel connected to you. It’s going to build trust and rapport, and I guarantee you’re going to see the performance go up on the other side of this.
Suzie: Absolutely! If there is any way before you leave the meeting to provide a solution, please do that in real time when you’re answering this question. However, if you do need more time, you could say, “I need some time to think about that solution. I need to do some research, but I will come up with a solution, and I’ll get back to you by the end of the week,” or something like that.
Megan: And follow through on your commitment. The worst thing you can do in this situation when someone is vulnerable enough to give you an honest answer is you make a commitment. “No. I’m not going to call you into that meeting.” Then, you do it. That will undermine trust. The next quarter when you have this meeting set up and you ask that question, they’re going to be cynical, and cynicism is very difficult to undo.
Larry: Today we have learned you can build strong, independent team members who function well on their own by giving them consistent, focused interactions at two intervals. The first of those is the weekly check-in which depends on these four questions: What updates do you have for me? What decisions do you need me to make? What progress have you made on quarterly milestones? What problems are blocking your progress?
The second interval is the quarterly one-on-one which hinges on five questions: What are your top three goals for the quarter and how are you progressing? What’s the biggest challenge you face as a leader? What do you think you need to do to overcome that? What do you need from me in order to succeed this quarter? What can I avoid doing that would undermine or frustrate your success?
If you have trouble remembering those, no worries. We have a complete transcript of today’s show in the show notes for this episode at leadto.win. You can download that for free and use that as a resource. Suzie and Megan, any final thoughts for our listeners today?
Suzie: I would say just don’t abdicate and don’t micromanage. We talked about that in the beginning of the episode. You don’t want to create so many problems in your organization by simply not meeting with your team or by meeting with them too much and micromanaging. Instead, find a rhythm that works for your team and your direct reports.
Even if it’s not exactly what we’re suggesting here and you need different questions in your culture or you find you need to do your one-on-one bi-weekly or something like that, you can totally make it your own, but the bottom line is you have to have a consistent rhythm and consistent agendas to create safe space for your team to grow and be their most productive.
Megan: That’s really good, Suzie. These two meetings we’re talking about today are all about setting your team up for success. The first one (the weekly check-in) is all about empowerment. How can I empower my team to get what they need to succeed? The second one is about connection. How can I stay connected enough to their needs that I can really serve them and answer their questions and address problems at a deeper level that come up?
I think, if you do these two things, you’ll go from transactional meetings and kind of a transactional relationship to one that is truly productive where you get the best possible performance out of your direct reports and create a lot of job satisfaction.
Larry: Thank you, both, for this very practical information. I feel like we have prevented a lot of Michael Scott moments today.
Megan: I hope so! Thanks, Larry, and thanks, Suzie for being here, and thank you all for joining us today. We’ll see you right here again next week. Until then, lead to win!
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