No One Likes Surprises at Work

Management is about the rigor and discipline of sticking to the important habits. One of the most important of those is always providing feedback through regular and routine 1-on-1s. It doesn’t matter how busy you think you are, how small your team is, how much you work together daily. What matters is that you schedule this repeating meeting and make sure that you actually stick to it, even if it only takes 15 minutes.

This serves, among other reasons I’ve written about, to minimize surprises. No one likes getting feedback only once things have gotten so bad that you feel you have to say something. Instead of shielding the person you are actually making them feel blindsided. Providing good feedback is a muscle, you have to make sure to practice it regularly, or it’s going to hurt when you really need it.

Too often I’ve seen at clients a manager or executive that spontaneously decided to have a 1-on-1 with someone, even though they don’t do this regularly and not because they had anything specific to talk about. Those, if not communicated properly, can cause even more damage. An employee that gets an invitation out of the blue from the VP Engineering for a 30 minutes chat in a week’s time won’t know what to expect.

If you do this, you have to remember the way your people think. More often than not, it means that employee is going to be fretting about what news are going to be delivered in the meeting. “Did I do anything wrong?” is the automatic thought process most people go through, and letting them stew in these thoughts for a week is plain stupid. Having 1-on-1s be routine makes it easier on everyone and sets the right expectations all over.

And once you have them, provide both positive and negative feedback regularly. Discuss next actions. That’s how you drive change instead of doing drive-by management.