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When we did our initial set of user research for building Kommon, 90 percent of the managers we spoke to said they were scheduling 1:1 meetings with their team members.
But that’s where the consistent practice ended. In terms of what people actually did with those meetings... well, our findings were a lot more mixed. Here’s one comment:
"It’s pretty common throughout the organisation to have a relatively regular check in with your manager so that was like a pre-established norm in my mind. Ok I have to have a weekly call with these people. The rest of it is the wild wild west." Kommon Interview
Simply scheduling 1:1s doesn’t make you a better manager. But using them in the right way can help you be a great one.
This article will help you get there.
In our chats with new managers, when we speak about the most challenging parts of the role, they often raise their team members’ struggles with mental health.
It can be incredibly difficult. We don’t have a simple answer for how to act in these complex cases.
But what we do know is that managers often have no formal training for these situations, and so rely on whatever resources their company has made available. And nowadays, that can mean mental health/therapy apps. Which is where a recent article in The Cut on ‘The Therapy-App fantasy’ comes in.
It’s a fantastic piece, which goes into detail on the potential for these apps to over-promise and under-deliver for clients. From individuals not being matched with suitable therapists, to unresponsive therapists, to the downsides of text-based therapy (which a lot of basic app plans use) versus in-person conversations.
Some of these are supply/demand issues these companies are struggling to work through during a pandemic, others are, shall we say, more obvious:
‘“Calculating profile …” it read. “Searching for matches … Analyzing matches … Returning best matches …” And then, my results: “Meet your matches,” Talkspace told me. “We’ve prioritized female providers who specialize in anxiety.” Beneath this message were three men.’
For us, the lesson is not that these apps are inherently bad. For some people they seem very helpful. But there is also immense potential for them to be unhelpful. This is a problem in an area as critical as mental health. Particularly if your company presents these apps as accessible solutions, without any expectation management or guidance on how to use them.
So if your company offers TalkSpace or a similar app-based service, and particularly if you’re thinking of recommending it to anyone on your team, we’d recommend reading the article. It will give you a greater appreciation of some of the potential gaps in these services, and the need to check in on your team members as they use them to see if what your company has provided is actually helping.
One of the hardest and most important things we do as managers is hiring. And within that, interviewing. How do you know what to ask?
Often the best way to learn is from others. By sitting in on interviews with effective hiring managers in your company, seeing what works, and what doesn’t.
This is often necessary because it’s rare to find examples of managers who take the time to document their interview processes, why they ask certain questions, and what they’re looking for…
He’s put together a series where he unpacks the interview questions he asks by going through:
If that sounds like a lot, it’s not - he makes great use of bullet points and pithy prose to quickly walk you through the various aspects.
And although he’s an engineering leader, a lot of these questions will sound very familiar. For example, ‘Tell me about a project you led…’, ‘The weakness question’ and ‘Tell me about a disagreement…’ Here's a snapshot from his analysis of candidates' responses to 'Tell me about a project you led...'
If you’re new to interviewing, it’s invaluable insight on why people ask these types of questions, what you can learn, and where you can go wrong. If you’re more experienced, you still might pick up a few tips.
(And if you’re planning on being on the other side of the table sometime soon, it might help you prepare to answer some of these topics too!).
‘Is there anything blocking you right now that I could help with?’
It’s a reasonably standard question for a 1:1 with one of your team members. But how often do you talk about what’s blocking your team’s progress as a whole?
Two ex-engineering leaders from Box found that asking this question was key to improving team productivity.
Measuring the productivity of knowledge workers is a notoriously difficult thing. We don’t have easily defined outputs or barometers for output, and attempts to monitor employees can stifle the creativity and drive for which you hired them in the first place. So Antoine and Thomas stopped trying to measure it by output at all.
Instead, they figured that if they could remove all the blockers to their team’s effective operation, that would naturally increase productivity. Whether that be outdated or slow tools, too many meetings, poor project management or something else.
When was the last time you got your team together and collectively discussed what they thought was preventing them doing their best work?
If you haven’t done it recently, you might learn something you could help remove to radically improve your team’s performance.