The startups that build and retain the best teams develop a huge competitive advantage. It’s no surprise that managers are the most important influencers of team development and retention.
The most frequent and consequently most powerful tool for managers to coach, develop and lead their teams are one-on-ones, weekly meetings between a manager and his or her individual reports. Most one-on-ones are ad-hoc, loosely structured 15-30 minute meetings. While extemporaneous meetings can work, leaders who manage their teams this way forgo an important opportunity to further their team’s success.
So, how does a manager run excellent one-on-ones? In How Google Works, Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg, former-CEO and SVP of Products at Google, articulate the structure for one-on-one meetings prescribed to Google by the legendary mentor Bill Campbell, who has advised Steve Jobs, Scott Cook and many other pioneers, including a few Redpoint founding teams.
There are two parts to Bill Campbell’s one-on-one structure: a list compiled before the meeting and a format for the meeting.
Before each meeting, both the manager and the report should write down the five things each want to cover in the meeting. At the start of the meeting, they should compare lists, and they should find significant overlap. This initial step confirms both people are prioritizing the same tasks. If the lists diverge meaningfully, it’s time for the manager to reassess, coalesce and articulate the priorities of the team.
After running through those five to seven line items, Campbell suggests structuring the meeting in four sections:
Terrific managers and team leaders alter the trajectory of their startups by inspiring, enabling and empowering their teams to achieve audacious goals. Great management is a discipline, a daily practice of small things like a well-structured 1⁄1, that when summed across years of collaboration create dramatic and sweeping change.