The Swiss Army Knife of Leadership Practices

The Swiss Army Knife of Leadership Practices

The Swiss Army Knife of Leadership Practices

Happy 2022! I hope this post finds you well, healthy, and off to a strong start for the year!

I had a deeply restful break, mostly staying close to home and avoiding (so far) the Omicron variant – at least as far as I know. How did you rest and restore yourself over the break?

My year is starting off in a very inspiring way. I’ve recently started working with a new client – a small executive team who haven’t been working that well together, to the detriment of their company. They are examining their working relationships and redefining how they work together and how they make decisions. What’s been most inspiring to me, though, is the terrific courage they each are showing in tackling some entrenched, and personally painful, issues. It’s easy to "manage" our feelings at work – hide them and pretend they don’t exist. But that seldom improves the working relationships. So this team really has my respect – they know what they need to do, and they’re diving in head-first!

Scraping Off the Barnacles

No alt text provided for this image

I hope that your exec team does this from time to time as well. Every sailboat owner knows that if you want to win races, you have to get your boat in dry dock and scrape off the barnacles that accumulate on the underside. (And then re-varnish it.)

Think of your team’s "barnacles:" the accumulated assumptions, judgments, disappointments, and hurt feelings (yes, it happens) that slowly erode team trust. Are they retarding your effectiveness?

The One Tool You Can Use Today

If you’re looking for a way to start fresh with your team this year, let me remind you that you already have the Swiss Army knife of leadership practices at your disposal: the 1:1 meeting!

Check your current reality – ask yourself:

  1. How often do I have 1:1s with my directs (and my boss)?
  2. How often do these get canceled, or repurposed for other conversations?
  3. When I do have them, how well do I use them?

1:1 meetings may be the most underutilized executive leadership tool around! Many clients admit that they (or their bosses) don’t always keep their one-on-one meetings. We know why – we have so many pressing priorities every day, and if we do have something urgent to address with a team member we probably call them (or Slack them). Or (worst of all) send an email outlining the issue, thus initiating a seemingly endless string of emails, with more and more people cc’d, until the whole discussion has become a frustrating exercise in miscommunication.

Why a Swiss Army Knife?

Simple – because 1:1 meetings are as versatile (and essential) as having a Swiss Army knife handy. You can use them for:

  • Prioritizing and setting expectations – Regularly review their priorities, your expectations, and how to best keep these aligned. Reset either as needed.
  • Relationship building – The basis for effective influencing, communication, and collaboration. There’s no better way to build strong relationships than to regularly spend time together. When you cancel, you’re signaling to them they aren’t important to you.
  • Information gathering – You need to learn from your direct reports - what are they seeing and hearing? What is important to them? What might you be missing that they can bring to light?
  • Coaching and guiding – The one-on-one meeting rightly belongs to the direct report. They deserve this time and attention from you. Dedicated time for you to help them in whatever ways they need. And to guide and coach them to greater heights.
No alt text provided for this image
  • Seeking feedback – Ask regularly what you can do better (in both boss and direct report roles). You’ll likely hear things that are easy to do, and that bring better results. So, ask.
  • Sharing feedback – You need to provide both positive and corrective feedback regularly, and in a timely manner. Doing so in regular meetings normalizes the conversation. It’s best if you ask for feedback first when you’re in the power-up position.
  • Supporting career growth – Think executives don’t need to have career development conversations? What about having succession planning discussions instead. Where might they contribute next? Who’s in line to succeed them in their current role?

And more… How else could you use 1:1s?

What Now?

Review your 1:1 meeting schedules, and make sure all your direct reports have regular, prioritized time with you. Get yourself on your boss’ calendar, if that applies to you.

And start the year off with a clarifying, expectation-setting conversation – about your 1:1s and how to make the best use of them!