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Issue #14 - Two methods to improve your business which big tech does
This week I wanted to share two methods that I have been using for the past four years. I think they are highly impactful, and things that you can try within your business/team.
1:1 (pronounced ‘one-to-one’)
The 1:1 is a term given to a meeting between two people.
Here we are talking about the 1:1 between a manager and a direct report - here is where the 1:1 becomes impactful. Impactful for both the people and the business.
Since I’ve worked in big tech, both as an IC and as a manager, the 1:1 has been the most significant tool/technique/approach which has had the most impact on me, my performance and my growth.
So what is it?
It’s a 30-minute to 1-hour meeting (depending on what you both agree is a good length) and you do it every week. And, we prioritise that meeting above all. The rules on cancelling are that the direct report can cancel when they want (even 2 mins before the meeting), but the manager should not.
Everyone does them differently.
When I do them with my direct reports I sometimes have an agenda, but mostly it’s whatever the IC wants to discuss. It is their time, dedicated to them.
We cover all sorts of things. We might start with a general chat like “how’s life?”, we might talk about progress on a specific project, or we might talk about a cross-team relationship that someone is struggling to build. It really could be anything. It’s whatever is on the direct report’s mind.
A few times per quarter I’ll dedicate time to career conversations. We’ll talk about aspirations, bounce ideas off each other, discuss growth opportunities and even make some plans.
For 1:1s with my manager, I mostly turn up with 2 or 3 key points I want to get feedback on. It could be - “I’m struggling with X”, or “X is on my mind, what are your thoughts?” or if I need to I might just give an update on a project which I think is important to share.
Overall, 1:1s are a big commitment. But they are hugely important to everyone involved.
So what makes it successful?
It develops a culture of fast feedback. Problems don’t sit for longer than a week, we talk openly about them.
It gives you a dedicated channel every week which is dedicated just to you.
It builds trust and shows care.
And by the manager prioritising it every week it shows that people are valued.
I use mine (with my manager) for advice and guidance, and for highlighting when things are not going so smoothly.
I also encourage my team to ‘manage up’, they should tell me when I’m wrong and help me understand if I don’t understand something, this is a forum for that.
Another useful technique is the HPM. HPM stands for Highlights, People and Me.
It’s a weekly email that is sent to your manager and/or team or cross-functional teams covering those three parts - Highlights, People and Me
It does what it says on the tin, you write a couple of short bullet points and it should take less than 10 minutes to write. If it takes any longer then you have written way too much.
Examples of what you might cover:
Highlights - what impact did you drive this week? which milestones did you achieve? any blockers?
People - what’s happening on the people's side? did your team have any visitors? did you meet with someone and want to share that with the team/manager? do you have some PTO coming up soon and do you want to remind your team?
Me - anything you want to share? a personal update? something going on in your life which you want to bring to the attention of the team? any personal blockers? any support you need?
Many teams handle the HPM in many different ways. The best way I have seen is where they get rolled up (summarised) via the different levels. For example…
each IC would send one HPM on a Friday morning every week to their manager
every 2 weeks the manager would take the H’s and the P’s from their full team, extract the key points and create a team HPM, the difference here is that the manager would remove the M part from the ICs (treated as confidential) and put their own M part in.
this would role up another level, and be repeated at every next level
By the end of the process, you have a weekly communication with your line manager and a full team and org HPM every two weeks.
Effort vs Impact
Effort - It should take less than 10 minutes per week to do for an IC. It might take a manager 30 mins every 2 weeks to combine the team’s HPM.
Impact - the individual and the business gets so much out of it
Individual - a channel to showcase your progress, and highlight issues/blockers and it’s also another channel to communicate with your manager, which can feed into that weekly 1:1.
Team - everyone has a clear sight of projects and progress. Think of it as a bi-weekly team newsletter but in a simplified format.
In short, it improves communication between managers and direct reports, across the team and across the wider organisation.
Let me know if you try them, I think they are really impactful things, so I’d love to hear if they work in your organisation.
As always, I hope you have a great week and weekend.