#133: How to Run the Most Effective 1:1 Meetings of Your Career
David: We're back.
DG: We're back. We're doing a podcast. I almost slipped. We are going on a little offsite, Q4 offsite in a little bit, somewhere undisclosed location.
David: There's a little hint, you can tell by my flannel shirt where we're going. Yeah. Heavy flannel shirt.
DG: I'll be sleeping in a twin bed and in Vermont tonight.
David: Yeah yeah
DG: Definitely. All right. So this episode of Seeking Wisdom, we have a topic, a topic from a listener.
David: Okay, who's the listener?
DG: The listener is Corey, shout out to you, Corey. He sent you a message and said:" Morning, David, I know you're swamped, but I have a quick question. You're known as someone who has conducted and put forth amazing one- on- ones." Corey, I wouldn't call them amazing.
David: Let's stick to what he wrote.
DG: They're okay." I'll be leading a sales team in the next two to three months, and I'm trying to come up with a great format for sales one- on- ones, anything you've used in the past, which has worked." About two minutes after Corey sent that, I got a screenshot of it from UDC and said," Let's do a Seeking Wisdom on this topic." And first of all, shout out to you, Corey. I love this. He's not managing a team yet, but he's thinking about managing a team and getting ready for that.
David: He's a planner. I like it.
DG: I love that. There's so much that we've talked about with one- on- ones, but we rehash a lot of it. Early days of Drift, you wrote a Wiki Post, which I should've pulled up for this, which is about one- on- ones, but you do have a religion around one- on- ones.
David: Yeah I definitely have a religion. I was having a meeting with Carrie on the team today who runs learning and development here at Drift, shout out Carrie.
DG: Hey Carrie.
David: And she, she came from Zappos and Amazon and doing all sorts of leadership stuff there. And we were working on a set of new, kind of what we call management principles. We have leadership principles here and working on management principles. And in that management principles, one of the things that we spend a lot of time talking about was one- on- ones, and the importance of the one- on- one. Cause she was asking what's one thing that I would tell the current managers here to do better, to stop, either to stop doing or continue doing.
DG: She asked you what you would say?
David: Yeah and I said, one- on- ones, I don't think all the teams are yet consistent enough for one- on- ones. And I think we should strive for, we should have a minimum of having one- on- ones every two weeks, so bi- weekly, but we should always be striving to have a one- on- one weekly. And the reason that I said that to her was, I don't know how you can be managing a team or a person if you don't have a regular cadence of one- on- ones where you communicating with them, cause I don't understand how that could work, and I think that's an area that's important. But for me, one- on- ones have always been super important. They almost go back to this notion of do the things that don't scale, and one- on- ones are one of those things that we typically look at in business, and we think, well, that can't scale. That only works when you're small. And so that's one of the first things that we give up and we replace it with some sort of process. And then we lose a lot because we don't know if someone's motivated, we don't know if something someone's running into problems. We don't really know what's happening with the person on the team. And on the flip side, they don't have someone that's invested in their growth that's trying to help them get to the next level that understands the roadblocks and difficulties that they may be having without the one- on- ones.
DG: Yes. Can you give the breakdown? Cause you do weekly one- on- ones with your direct reports, but then you do monthly one- on- ones with other people on the team?
David: Yeah. So here at Drift, so we're like 200 and whatever 20 something people at this point, I do weekly one- on- ones with my direct reports and now those one- on- ones will go into more of that a little bit. But mine can be walking, so go grab a coffee really quick. I've done them on the phone. So over video, we've done them, or just over the phone, we've done them over WhatsApp or they could be, in a room like this, but more typically there we're doing something right. And then we're talking at the same time. I wanted to point that out because often people think the one- on- one is highly structured. Highly, like we have to sit in a room for half an hour, 45 minutes, an hour in some cases and ask a lot of questions. It's more of a check. So I do that every week. And then I do the skip level thing where I have one- on- ones every month with people who don't report directly to me, but might be the next level or the level or some level in the company. And I have one- on- ones with them. And then I have, typically I haven't had too many of them recently, this open office hours thing where I'll just have, one- on- ones randomly with different people in the company, but that's my cadence for doing that. How often are you doing one- on- ones?
DG: So now, we recently grew the marketing team a bunch. And so for a while we had 10, 11 people on the team, and I was doing weekly one- on- ones with everybody, which was a lesson in actually that didn't scale. And then that meant that I was spending 90% of my time in one- on- ones, which is not fair. It's not really about me. It's not fair to the team because I'm not ever really paying full attention to those. Now though, we recently have hired a bunch of people on the team. And so I actually now have gone from having 10 direct reports to four. And now, which is your big push, so shout out to you. And now I do weekly one- on- ones with the four people that are direct reports, and then I'm going to try to do bi- weekly one- on- ones with everybody else on the team, because I think at this point in time, it's realistic for me to be able to do that. And then so the skip level for me will be bi- weekly until it has to go monthly.
David: Yeah. I think a rule that we try to live by or heuristic is to not have more than eight people that you have to have one- on- ones with. So not more than eight direct reports. Ideally, you're closer to where you are, like five, six. Yeah.
DG: Even eight.
David: Eight's a lot.
DG: I know the advice is six to eight. We've had a lot of conversations about this, but like six to eight is still a lot. Cause there's five days in a week and you're going to spend 30 minutes with... so if you do one one- on- one a day, that's five, that's day of the week. One of those days you're going to have to double up, that's six. Right? And so you're already spending a good chunk of your week doing that.
David: Yeah. And it's not fair. I like what you brought up, which is something I talked about with Carrie as well is, look the one- on- ones, you as a manager, when you manage people, you have to see that as a duty as you're there to serve that group of people. And you're not properly serving them if one, you're not having one- on- ones and then two, if you're not giving yourself enough time to actually take action based on the feedback that you're hearing and help them. Right, so like the one- on- one is just the listening part. You're not actually doing anything.
DG: It's the listening and the roadblock removing part of management. I think it's like, hey, I'm stuck on this problem. I'll talk about my one- on- ones with you for example, I usually use them in two different ways. Number one is-
David: Is the notebook.
DG: I have a notebook. It's not this notebook, this is my little scratch pad, but it's in Evernote. And this is actually a little hack that I wish, that I want to teach to more people because it's really helpful for me. So in Evernote, and this could be Evernote, Paper, whatever. I have a notebook for each one of my direct reports, or the people that I report to. So in my case, I have the four direct reports and then a notebook for you.
David: Jeez, my notebook.
DG: No it's good. And so I put stuff in that notebook that I want to talk to you about that is not urgent for today. Because I think in the world that we live in with Slack and email and WhatsApp,
David: I love this, I love this.
DG: There's so many things that don't need attention right now. And so for example, I need to talk to DC, I'm making this up. I need to talk to DC about hiring for this role. Or I need to talk to DC about our event strategy for 2019. That's not something that I'm going to just message him over Slack and share. I want to get him a room and I want to have that conversation. It's not urgent for today, so I put it in that file. This is actually, if you go all the way back and read one of the best books, The High Output Management by Andy Grove, he talks about at Intel having folders. This was a physical manila folder-
David: You know what I think we are going to go to folders soon.
DG: You're going to go to folders?
David: That's different, different topic.
DG: In addition to my calendar. And you put notes in there that's not urgent, but some that you can file away for later. And then also that makes me more prepared for my one- on- one because ultimately my one- on- one with you is my meeting. If I have no agenda, we just kind of walk around and shoot the shit, which is sometimes good. Right? Or we cancel it because I don't need it, but I usually go to that meeting with, I got three specific things I want to ask you about.
David: You do cancel one- on- ones sometimes.
DG: Cause it's not you. And so maybe sometimes you need to check in on me. So you do like, Hey, you want to go for a walk, right? But that's usually my pattern. And that's helped me because I think so much of management and even having a manager is, I got to talk to my manager about this thing and it's crazy to just message that person, ping, ping, ping, ping, ping, all day with specific stuff that need action, where put it away and talk about it in your next one- on- one. Now it's filed the way. I don't have to think about it.
David: That's a discipline that I wish I had. I don't have that discipline of filing stuff away. I'm the ping, ping, ping, ping, ping.
DG: But it's different though, it's different. Your role, you're a CEO like that is you. You get paid to come up with ideas and make sure the company is going to run on time and get the right things done. And so you can do that. My position leading marketing is, I have to be able to take all the crazy stuff that you have and actually digest that and turn it into plays and output for the company. And so I just think it's a difference in roles. The other thing is, love the walks. I think our walks are the best one- on- ones, I agree with that with a team. Cause you get somebody to open up, and it's okay you can bring your notebook, you can bring your phone to look at your stuff, but you get, it's harder to have a conversation when you're sitting across the table and it's very sturdy and you're sitting in this meeting room, and so I always try to go for a walk, get a juice or something or coffee. But if I have something that I need to draw out for you or show, then we then, and now, hey, where are we going? Or you always say, are we going for a walk? Or what do you want to do? Nah I want to stay here cause I want to draw something out for you. And that's when we get the whiteboard. And for me, that's a meeting where I know I have to get an answer, but I need your help getting there. And so that's where I want to either sit down and present to you something or draw something out and we get there together.
Speaker 3: Yeah. And the thing that I always advise against, which came up the other day with Eli, who's on the team, is not to turn it into an interrogation. So if you're the manager, don't bring the laptop or don't look like you're writing down every single word that someone's saying because it turns to din... and that's why I prefer the walk as the default because it turns something that's supposed to be a conversation into an interrogation, and people start to get nervous when you're typing during the whole thing and typing every single word that they're saying, right? They feel like you're building a-
DG: So that's so true. Your guard is just different. If you let it down and go for a walk, it puts everybody kind of on this level playing field. And also you don't have to make, some conversations are hard and you can go for a walk and have the conversation as opposed to having to look, sit directly across the table from each other and stare.
David: Eye contact, yeah.
DG: So here's what we're going to do, right? I think the notes thing is really important. I don't take notes during the one- on- one. I have a little scratch pad or type a note in my phone if the... like I had a one- on- one with Gail today and she said, Hey, can you do this? I need you to do this and I need you to do this. So I wrote those two things down. That's not me taking notes on what she said,
David: But she asked you to do something.
DG: She asked me to do something. And I think you can also remember the bigger themes of what keeps coming up in the one- on- one. The other thing about one- on- ones I didn't realize until later and having a bigger team now is, one- on- ones you can actually learn more about other people on the team-
David: Big time.
DG: That you're not having one- on- ones with. This person is a problem because you have, let's say you have one- on- ones with all your direct reports and they all mentioned one thing about this one person. Then you start to hear stuff that you wouldn't hear otherwise.
David: Oh, absolutely. And that's why I also do the skip one. So you start to hear, even though I'm doing from a percentage basis, a small percentage of the company that I'm talking to, like everyone is mentioning projects that they're working with other people in dependencies and you start to hear themes. Also, the other thing that you usually hear in the one- on- one, which you made me think about is that often someone might bring up something once, and so you walk through it. And then if you keep having one- on- ones with the person, you might notice that they keep bringing up certain themes as like, that they're not making a big deal out of them, but they keep bringing certain issues up and they keeps resurfacing. And that's when you know, to double click on those issues.
DG: Yeah. I think that usually happens about people like issues on the team that people are working with, that they're not happy with or raises or promotions. Right, you hear seeds of it. The thing it does, but before we wrap up, is it actually, it teaches you about you and your holes and flaws I think as a manager. Because if I go on four different one- on- ones and I realize that they're all saying something that really leads me to believe, oh man, I'm not, I'm clearly not doing a good enough job communicating because I heard from three people that they didn't have clarity on this thing. That's a pattern, as opposed to hear from one person, you don't really internalize that and think like, was this me or, what do I need to do?
David: Totally. And so for Corey, I would say the first thing is make sure that you have your one- on- ones regularly, right? So whatever your cadence is, ideally you're striving for weekly, but worst case you have them every two weeks, that's fine. Two, is make them an active kind of thing. Make it a walk, make it a session at the whiteboard, make it something that is less than interrogation in a room. And then third, but most important, make this, the person who's having the one- on- one make them own the agenda for the one- on- one.
David: And that's what DG said there, which when we have a one- on- one together, he has notes and he has an agenda that he's bringing. I don't typically have an agenda. I'm just there to listen and try to remove roadblocks, but he has an agenda that he's bringing forth.
DG: Yeah. And I think if you're a new manager, go out there and have a one- on-one say, Hey, I have nothing. I'm walking with you. This is your meeting. What's up?
David: What do you want?
DG: And be okay with it. You got to be, embrace the silence a little bit. Right? People talk more if you let them. Be silent, let it come out, right. The easiest way to get somebody talking is to walk 200 yards without saying a word. Someone's going to say something.
David: Let him talk. Amazing. So good news, I've been seeing some six star reviews come through.
DG: Me too! Was it because people left reviews, or you fixed the thing that-
David: No, no people left reviews. So I've seen a good number of little reviews coming through. They're not little, great reviews.
DG: Great reviews.
David: Six star review only on there. So we're getting closer to being ready to unleash some of the other shows that we have in the backlog, because we're finally starting to see some positive reinforcement.
DG: And we just re- upped Exceptions for seasons two and three.
David: Exceptions. So the Exceptions show on Seeking Wisdom with your friend, Jay. Jay just released a book.
DG: He did.
David: Yep. We'll be getting copies of it. Coming.
DG: Break the Wheel.
David: Break the Wheel. It's out there on Amazon. I believe you can order it or pre- order. I think you can order it now. I think it's official. So go check out, Break the Wheel, by Jay Acunzo, who hosts Exceptions here. I got excited about Bill because Maggie has some heat coming in, coming there. So Jay is coming back for two more seasons of Exceptions. It's going to get hot.
DG: Yep. So cross it off the list. Corey, we got you on one-on-one. So we got a lot of stuff on the way.
David: One last thing, P- P- S if you happen to be a B2B marketer, DG has created this thing, which is, it's not a Drift thing, and it's not a Seeking Wisdom thing, but he's created this B2B marketing mastermind group. I think that's what you call it, on Facebook. And so how would people get on that list?
DG: Well, actually you have to go to LinkedIn. You have to comment on the posts, which this video has now been viewed 181, 000 times in 1900 marketers have commented on this.
DG: Yeah. Somewhere lost in the LinkedIn algorithm. Actually, you don't even have to comment on the post. The easiest way to get access now is email me directly dg @ drift. com. We're launching as B2B marketing mastermind group because every-
David: What is it?
DG: It's a Facebook group. But what I realized is every time I go out and meet with a ton of marketers, that is my favorite thing in the world. Last night, we did an event and I sat around at a table with five markers and we just asked each other questions for like two hours. And that's the stuff that I love. That's where you get the real stuff. What are you doing for PR? What are you doing for events? What about product marketing? Hey, how did you hire for this thing? That's the real money stuff. The only problem is, I hate going out. I don't like being out at night. I don't like doing stuff. And I was like, how do we scale this without having to do it all the time? So we're going to have this group. The group is going to be highly moderated and curated. So it's not going to be a lot of crosstalk in the group. Not everyone gets in. You have to be in B2B marketing. You have to be really doing something. And also, I think having that in Facebook, there's going to be a lot of really cool stuff we can do with interviews with Facebook Live with having people participate. So I'm super excited about the group.
David: All right. So email dg @ drift. com if you want to be part of that, send your LinkedIn profile there cause this is highly curated stuff here. Invite only. All right. Six stars only, bye.