How to Manage People in 15 Minutes a Day

It’s how you lead, not how much, that counts. Want to have maximum impact in minimum time? Use what I call the 3.1% Coach method. Limit your people-development activities to no more than 15 incremental minutes per day (that’s 75 minutes a week, or 3.1% of a hypothetical 40-hour workweek). Then employ the “smart coach approach” to leverage that tiny slice of time for results.

Here are four ways to do it:

  1. Turn dead time into development time. Walking back to your office after a meeting? Use those two minutes to give your direct report feedback on the presentation, and on how he could do better next time. He didn’t have a speaking role? Ask him how he thought the meeting went and how he might have made certain points differently — and then offer feedback on that. Direct, in-the-moment feedback is your single best tool for developing people.
  2. Constantly spot dead time. Look for every two-minute stretch in your day during which you could be talking to someone else — most often, that’s travel time — and convert each into a coaching opportunity. Walking down to Starbucks to get a coffee? Driving to the airport? Headed out to your car at the end of the day? Ask one of your people to come along with — and talk to them about their goals and priorities.
  3. Show up in their workspace. Employees expect you to stay in your seat. Don’t. Once per day, get up and walk over to the desk of someone you haven’t spoken to recently. Take two minutes to ask her what she’s working on. Once she’s done answering, respond “What do you need from me to make that project/transaction successful?” Message to employee: I know who you are, I’ve got high expectations — and I’ve got your back.
  4. Make two calls per day. On your way home from work, call (or email) two people you met with that day, and offer “feedforward.” “I like what you’ve done with the Smithers account. Next time, let’s try to keep marketing costs down. Thanks for your hard work.” Always make “thank you” a part of the message. Employees who feel appreciated, and know that you’re trying to develop their skills, stay engaged over the long run.

With consistent (read: daily) use, these strategies will pay off. Your employees will feel like you’re not just their boss, but a coach — they’ll sharpen their skills, and stay motivated.

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