One on One meetings for managers

Cal Evans recently surveyed people on Twitter as to whether people hold one on one meetings (AKA 1:1s) with their managers, and how often and how long they are.

There aren’t many more valuable things you as a manager can do with your time than to have one on one meetings with your reports. In High Output Management, Andy Grove talked about managers as leverage. If a manager’s output is the sum of the output of all the individuals they manage and influence, then the amount of your output as a manager is increased not just by how many people you have, but the more productive those people are.

A key insight that Grove had was that the way to increase your output is to increase your leverage. If you can improve a person’s activity or behavior over a long period of time by briefly supplying your words or actions, then you’ve achieved leverage.

You hire people because those 3 people can do more than you can by yourself. They are your leverage to increase your output. But if they’re not effective, either because they’re blocked, or because they’re lacking direction, then their output—and thus your leverage—is going to be low. Spend an hour of your week to increase productivity for the other 39 hours of someone’s work week? That’s a great investment!

Looked at another way, you can spend one hour and focus or improve someone’s entire work week, essentially buying you 39 more hours in a week, AND making their other 39 hours more effective. What could you do with 39 more hours in the week? What could your team accomplish with more productive hours? How would you not make time for that?

When I hear managers that don’t have time for 1:1s it’s usually because they’re busy with other activities. These activities where the manager is doing work instead of setting your team in motion are low leverage. An hour spent on those doesn’t get you anything more than whatever work you accomplished in that hour.

I’d much rather spend my hours doing things that result in more leverage.

A one on one meeting is one of the top ways you can build your managerial leverage: spend a little bit of time greatly improving the work of one person and watch your team’s output soar.


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