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I have a love/hate relationship with email. It is great for sending out objective information and coordinating activity, but for dialogue, email stinks. I remember a management training seminar I attended many years ago. This was in the days before email when memos were the all the rage. The speaker asked rhetorically "Have you ever tried to sigh at a memo?" Wellhave you? Or sigh at an email? Doesn't do much good does it?

Staying connected to your direct reports is crucial in this age of electronic communication. We are all so busy (don't get me started on "multi-tasking!") that it seems we no longer have time for face-to-face meetings. And when we do we tend to prioritize the meetings over the one-on-one conversations. It is just too easy to blow off an individual versus a whole room full of folks.

But any manager/leader worth her salt will tell you that face time with your direct reports is always time well spent. So before you start nuking those one-on-ones from your calendar, consider these four reasons to make these meetings a very high priority.

  1. Meeting with your direct reports is time invested, not time wasted. You may gain back 30 - 45 minutes by blowing off the meeting, but the problem or situation your direct report wants to talk about, if left untended, will probably end up costing you more time later on. In addition, your direct report can get all of his questions answered at one time rather than dripping questions on you all week like some form of Chinese water torture. A quick word of advice - don't schedule all your direct reports back to back. It's too easy to get tired of it and blow off someone. Instead, scatter them throughout the week either early or late in the day so you are less likely to be interrupted.

  2. It builds trust. Everything you do that involves getting work done with and through other people is grounded in trust. If you blow off your staff week after week, what message are you sending them? Don't rationalize that it is a left-handed compliment to their ability to get the job done without you. It most likely is interpreted as: almost anything else is more important than your meeting with them. Can you feel the trust they have in you oozing away? Regular meetings reinforce the notion that you are a team, a partnership, and that your time together is important and a priority for you.

  3. The eyes-on diagnostic tool. Nothing beats laying eyes on someone else, especially the people you most depend upon to get the job (and your plans) done. So speak with clarity and listen very carefullya much richer discussion ensues when you do. And no email can convey the information contained in one's tone of voice or body language. You can ask those follow up questions or get off on that tangent you sense is important, but which you could not do on a conference call or via email. Many problems can get short circuited right then and there, but only if you take the time to meet.

  4. You really get to know your people. Trust is built in part by being vulnerable with others. That includes getting to know them personally. You don't need (nor should you become) best buddies, but you will get more from them if you get to know them and they you. What is going on in their personal lives? What are their long term goals? How do they handle that crabby employee we have all been tolerating for ten years? There is much to learn here. And the more you know about your people the better able you will be to deploy them in a manner that will help assure the best results. And they will connect to you (we are talking about developing loyalty). Lacking that trust and loyalty, why shouldn't they leave when a better offer comes along?

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Maxwell & Associates
1012 Embassy Row Way • Seabrook Island, SC 29455-6005 • Voice 843-768-2227 • Fax 843-768-2170 •

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