Q. Dear Zenagos,
I have 5 full-time employees, and I meet with each one once a week to problem-solve and talk about priorities. I’m exhausted and feel like I never get anything done because I’m supervising my team. I thought employees were supposed to make my job easier! What am I doing wrong?
Managing people is a skill that takes time to develop. Give yourself some grace to learn – you will get better at balancing management time and your own productivity. Meanwhile, here’s a quick tip that can buy you back some of your valuable time.
Do you really need those one-on-one’s?
Managers often get in the habit of scheduling a weekly one-on-one meeting with each employee (or “direct report”). It seems like a good way to make sure that you connect each week, and the employee generally likes the idea of a private meeting. However, this is really inefficient management. If you have 5 employees, you are using 50 hours a week with this process (5 of your hours and 5 of each employee’s hours for each meeting). If you each work 40 hours a week, then you are committing 21% (or 50 ÷ 240) of your workforce’s time to one-on-one meetings. Are you certain that this time is being used wisely? It is probably not.
Try a daily standup
Instead of 5 one-on-one meetings per week, why not hold a team standup meeting first thing in the morning with all 6 of you? Make it really short – say, 10 minutes! In the meeting, each of you states what you’re doing that day and says if there is any area in which you need help. Since the whole group is together, everyone hears all of the priorities. The team can problem-solve really quickly, anticipating problems. Everyone still gets facetime with you, and your team will feel more empowered and become more cohesive. As a side benefit, everyone will focus on coming to work on time.
What if people travel?
You need to prioritize your team time, so if people are on the road, have them call in. If people work remotely, have them Zoom in to the meeting. If there’s not enough to talk about because things are moving really smoothly, go to three standups a week or even two, but reserve the right to go back to daily when things get crazy.
Are you using your staff as an excuse to avoid other work?
If your employees continue to take too much of your time, be honest with yourself – are you using your staff as an excuse to avoid other work? Each of us has tasks that we like and tasks that we avoid. If you really like talking to your employees and working with them, you may be doing that, instead of doing the tasks that only you can do. Fight against this tendency to gravitate toward employee management when it isn’t necessary. As a small business owner, you need to do the things that need to be done (as opposed to the things that you like the most) until you have an employee in place who can do those things for you.
If you and your 5 employees do a 10-minute daily standup, you will only occupy 5 hours a week with employee meetings (6 people x 10 minutes x 5 days a week) instead of 50 hours a week. This will put 45 hours a week back to time on tasks. That’s nearly 19% of your team’s available time!
Life isn’t all about efficiency – everyone needs human contact time. So, if your people need one-on-one time, go ahead and schedule it. However, you’ll be surprised how rare these needs will be if your team spends 10 minutes getting aligned each morning.
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