In some recent 121 coaching sessions on time management it has struck me how traditional managers are when it comes to 121 meetings with their direct reports. Managers are scheduling sometimes fortnightly hour or more sessions with each person (with everyone getting the same time allocation and format) and then finding they have little time for anything else. Why do we do this? I'm guessing its because we think we SHOULD be doing lots of 121s because this is how staff get feedback etc. Some managers take great pride that they spend HOURS doing 121s - but is this meeting really the best use of their time? A few observations:
- No-one really wants to be on the receiving end of that awful word: feedback. What they want is a bit of time now and again with the boss to review things, catch up, opportunity sometimes for a bit of a moan and generally move things forwards.
-People generally like a bit of regular attention and recognition around what they are doing well and then perhaps pointing in the right direction if there is something fundamentally wrong that needs fixing. If you are doing this day to day, 'at the desk' etc and in other ways then doesn't that reduce the time you and I then need in the meeting room in the '121'?
- 121s are often used sometimes as a bit of a coping strategy for a managers own stress and priorities as opposed to benefiting and supporting the person we are having it with. Minutes are spent going down 'to-do lists' so that the MANAGER feels comfortable that things are getting done. But why isn't this just covered in a short weekly template return by staff that perhaps captures highlights, lowlights, next weeks priorities etc. Do we really need a meeting? 121s we then have can be more employee-focused, perhaps looking at development, obstacles etc.
-If I'm an amazing performer perhaps I only need a few minutes now and again with you as opposed to a longer period of time needed by someone new or who struggles in the role. If I'm already doing well how about asking me what I want from a 121 and how often?
- We also need to be agreeing objectives on a little and often basis so everyone is clear on expectations and outcomes as opposed to lots of time-consuming discussion around activities and 'you should do this' pieces of advice to our people.
If each 121 is taking over an hour and it does every couple of weeks or so then something can't be right. Are we repeating ourselves, are we improving anything, is this just a 'talking shop' each time? Making them more meaningful in half the time benefits everyone.
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