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NY manager gets more done with 15 minute one-on-one meetings

Offices with a limited number of staffers can follow the management lead of a New York medical office manager who has replaced full-staff meetings with 15-minute individual meetings in which she talks with each person privately.

In a group, not everything gets brought out, says the manager of the practice, which has just seven staffers. There is no opportunity to listen to each person. What is more, people are reluctant to mention problems in front of a group. And the manager doesn’t have an opportunity to address performance.

So she decided to end her weekly group meetings and use the time instead for individual discussions.

To introduce the concept to staff, she told them the meetings were for bringing up problems, ironing out trouble spots and making recommendations for anything that will make the office run more smoothly.

She also told them the dialogue would be two-way, that she would tell them about their performance shortcomings and they were free to tell her about management shortcomings.

The meetings are held every week on the same day but there are not appointed times. Instead, the manager starts off in mid-morning with “who wants to go first?”

She tells staff to write down the things they want to talk about as they happen. Otherwise, Tuesday’s event is forgotten by Thursday but then remembered again Friday and then starts to smolder.

Sometimes staff members come in with several items written down. Other times they don’t have anything to say. At that point the manger may go over a performance issue. Or she may simply tell the staffer that all is well and “keep up the good work.”

Unless there’s a serious issue under discussion, the meetings never run longer than 15 minutes. More than that and minor things start to come out that do not warrant a manager’s attention. Management-wise, the weekly meetings give everyone a sort of ongoing review, because staff can always get a brief update on their performance.

Morale-wise, the meetings clear up the conflicts that get bottled up and create negative attitudes.

A frequent remark for example, may be “I have more work than So and So,” which gives the manager an opportunity to explain the other staffer’s job and to point out that even though there’s not a lot of work on the desk, that person is busy. The outcome is that staff appreciate one another’s work and are more willing to help each other.

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