The Fat Cat, Improving Performance, Office Hours and 121s

Office Hours

One of the bedrock management processes should be documented, 121 meetings, for 30 minutes every week, structured and planned well in advance with each and every direct report.

These save time and massively improve the quality of both the working and personal relationship as well as providing a platform for coaching, feedback, performance management and accountability.

In this article Paige Arnoff-Fenn learns a similar lesson. First she describes the scenario – a senior manager at work.

“He spends his entire day in meetings, walking between conference rooms or driving to his next appointment. He gets stopped in the hallways or gets messages through his Blackberry from his team to answer questions and make real-time decisions that keep their projects moving forward until he returns to his office after 5 p.m.

He eyeballs his e-mail throughout the day, multitasking in meetings, and checks voice mail during bio breaks, but he’s virtually never in his office during “normal business hours” whatever that even means anymore. There’s no “think time” to reflect and process information today, and we’re being inundated with more data and information than ever before.”

This manager decided to start holding ‘office hours’ for three hours each week.

He sent his team an e-mail to announce his plan and he arrived at his office at the scheduled time on the designated day. To his delight and surprise, members of his team stopped by all afternoon. Employees were thrilled to know they were guaranteed to find him sitting at his desk.

I have no doubt that the volume of e-mail from his team declined significantly. Because his team members perceive that he has power over them and their careers they find reasons to remind him that they are there and that they are doing good work – through his e-mail. If they know that they will get face to face time then this need to be ‘heard’ falls away.

Now I would not recommend a manager to implement ‘office hours’ in the way that this manager did it. I can imagine it being like a doctors waiting room when the office hours start. Or like a shoe shop on a busy day – please take a ticket and wait your turn. The lack of structure and purpose too would drive me mad. But with a little adjustment we would have a great system of 121s and a significant step towards becoming a high performing team would be taken.

If you would like to learn how to use 121s to improve performance in your team then please get in touch or attend one of our training sessions.

PS Take another look at the opening hours sign. Did you think that the Fat Cat was a Free House?

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