Managerial spans of control have gotten wider, and thus, most managers are responsible for too many people. Without a doubt, this has contributed to the under management epidemic. Tasked with managing 16, 60 or even more employees, managers are asking, “How can I possibly talk one-on-one with every single employee, every single day, in just one hour a day?”
Instead of tackling the challenge, overwhelmed managers hide in their offices, complete the required management paperwork and do little “managing” beyond that. So, how can you manage 60 people every day? To start, make a reality check: Do you really have sixteen or sixty people who directly report to you, or do you have a “chain of command?” That is, employees who are supposed to be managing some of the other employees in your group.
If you have a chain of command, you must use it effectively. Make a habit of talking to these supervisors or team leaders every day and focus intensely on helping them in the role you need them to play. Teach them how to manage on an ongoing basis, and manage how they do it. Just as you are working hard to be a great boss, they need to do the same.
Whether you have a chain of command or not — or how many people you are responsible for managing-you do have to make choices every day about how you are going to use your dedicated management time. Some people need more attention than others. Talking to every person every day is not always possible. You have to choose your targets. Just don’t make the mistake of choosing the same employee over and over again. Spread out your management time. Some employees may need you more than others, but everybody needs you.
As long as you conduct them on a regular basis, there is no reason to let management conversations become long and convoluted. The goal is to make these one-on-one meetings routine, brief, straight and simple. Once you’ve gotten into a routine with each person, 15 minutes should be all you need. Like everything else, it’s a moving target. Over time, you’ll have to gauge how much time you need to spend with each employee, depending upon the person and the work they are doing.
You’ll be surprised at how much you can get done with an employee in just 15 minutes. Take an employee you have not spoken to in detail for a while. Spend some time with that person asking probing questions about his or her work. It is almost always the case that you will find some surprises. You will find things that require adjustment, and you’ll be glad you had that conversation. And you should be in a hurry to have another one after about two weeks.
At 15 minutes per meeting, you should be able to have four meetings a day in an hour! That’s twenty meetings a week, at least. I bet that’s a whole lot more management time than you’ve been giving yourself. Here are six steps to help get you started:
1. Concentrate on four or five people a day.
2. Make your meetings quick-no more than fifteen minutes.
3. Consider holding meetings standing up, clipboard in hand, to keep them quick and focused.
4. Don’t let anybody go more than two weeks without a meeting.
5. If you manage people working a variety of shifts, stay late or come in early to meet with them.
6. If you manage people in remote locations, communicate via telephone and e-mail regularly and consistently in-between opportunities to meet one-on-one in person.
Dedicate the time to manage every day. Make it a rigorous habit. It’s just like exercise. Put in that hour every day. Take that walk every day. It will start to pay off almost immediately. You’ll start getting in shape. Things will go more smoothly, and managing sixty people won’t seem like such an insurmountable task.
Bruce Tulgan is the founder and CEO of RainmakerThinking, Inc., a management research and training firm.