On a Management SLA
Company culture is a living, breathing organism you have to nurture. In a world where input and recognition are more important to today's workforce than money and title, a culture that values growth and development is well positioned to recruit and retain the best talent. Personal development starts with feedback.
The key to becoming expert at giving feedback is making it habitual and insisting on receiving it in return. You have to give feedback at every one-on-one meeting you have, whether with your manager or your direct report.
Everyone worth a damn needs their manager's support and wants insightful information about their performance. Your responsibility as a manager is to empower your team to become their best selves. When you deliver specific, constructive feedback on a regular basis to your team members, and create an environment where that same level of feedback is flowing back to you, you dramatically increase the team's likelihood of achieving superb performance.
On Walking and Talking
What if you published a management SLA for the whole company to use?
Team members would have transparency into the company's management philosophy and know what kind of leadership and commitment to people is valued. New managers would know what was expected of them. They'd know upfront the gaps in their management skills that need development. The company's organizational ambition and its commitment to developing internal leadership would be clear.
Organization design's primary purpose is to provide a framework for unleashing your team's creativity. Whether you choose hierarchical, holocratic, flat, or something else, you want roles and expectations clearly understood and easily communicated. A management SLA provides a base level of consistency across all the company's teams, regardless of function, and outlines a clear set of leadership criteria that all teams can checklist against.
My most productive one-on-ones don't take place in the office. They happen on the streets of Manhattan, where two miles at a brisk pace gets the blood flowing, clears the brain for creativity, and lowers defenses. On the sidewalk bullshit seems to melt away and real connections can be made.
Every one-on-one is a personal development opportunity.
It is a manager's responsibility to be regularly available for (and not to miss) a one-on-one and a team member's responsibility to show up and own the agenda. The meeting is owned by the employee because it is her professional development we are focused on. We're not here for a status update – email can handle that fine – but rather to open the pathways that lead to repeat success, removing blockers, and providing a safe environment to nurture not-fully-baked ideas.
My expected agenda is straightforward. First, focus on success. Discuss your wins since we last met. How have you moved the business forward? Be sure to have shared any necessary KPIs or project updates one day prior to meeting face-to-face. Second, air your blockers and frustrations. The most valuable data I can capture is how the org and, more importantly, I am preventing you from being successful. Third, and this is the fun part, what do you want to spitball? Use me as a sounding board to think through ideas, no matter how zany, before you are ready to present them to the team. Lastly, discuss the needs of the team and how you can contribute to addressing them.