“I noticed that the dynamic range between what an average person could accomplish and what the best person could accomplish was 50 or 100 to 1. Given that, you’re well advised to go after the cream of the cream. A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.”
~ Steve Jobs
I want to give you a tip which I first heard from a guy called Eben Pagan about managing people.
It’s especially useful if you have virtual staff.
And it’s really easy to do, for both you and the person reporting to you.
Here it is:
Get daily updates.
I’m not talking about updates which take 30 minutes to prepare. I’m not talking about micro-managing a person right down to the point of knowing what time they went to lunch.
I’m talking about just a short 5 minute update, on 3 items.
Here’s how it looks:
You’ve just hired a new staff member. They’ve been onboarded, and given some training on how to do their job.
You then send them a short message:
Hi [name], welcome to the team, I’m looking forward to working with you.
I have one request for you, which will help me to help you in your new role.
It’s very important that it gets done daily, and it should only take you 5 minutes at most.
At the end of each day, I’d like you to send me a short message and answer the following three questions:
1.) What were the main things you accomplished for the day?
2.) What were the obstacles you encountered (if any)
3.) Do you have any questions you need answered?
Please don’t spend more than 5 minutes on this each day – this is just to give me an overview, and so I can help you in the role. Again, please make sure it gets done each day.
The first thing you’ll notice is that a surprisingly large number of people struggle with this simple request.
In my experience, close to half the people I’ve asked to do this over the years will not be consistent in doing it daily for even their first 30 days.
So you will likely need to remind them a few times. But if you need to remind someone more than 3 times in their first 30 days, that’s a big warning sign.
Some people may say this is micro-managing.
It’s not. It is perfectly reasonable for you as the business owner – and the person paying their wages, to ask for daily updates.
With this simple request, you can help that person get up and running in their role, and also evaluate quickly if they are going to be a good fit.
Whether you’re running a virtual team or have people coming into your office, get the update in writing.
Face-to-face conversations often drag on, and if you have a lot of staff, you could easily burn up a couple hours a day on this – which is totally unnecesary.
Getting it in writing is faster for everyone.
Plus, in the case where you’ve hired the wrong person, it’s good to have it in writing. When you have to confront someone about their non-performance, you can sit down with them and go through the daily updates.
It will be immediately apparent to both of you that it’s not a good fit.
And in the case where someone could not be depended upon to provide the daily update (despite you reminding them up to 3 times that that it needed to be done), then it’s just obvious to everyone it’s not going to work out.
“If I can’t count on you to give me, the owner of the company, a simple daily update on what you’re accomplishing each day – then how can I depend on you to perform in this role.”
But let’s be clear; requiring these daily updates is not about tripping someone up and coming up with reasons to fire them.
It’s to evaluate their performance, get to know their work style, and to get information on how you can best help them succeed in their new role.
If you have less than 10 staff currently, then it’s fine to have them all sending you these daily reports.
But if you have 50 or more… then it’s going to be too much information for you to process and stay on top of.
So each person can send their daily updates to their team leader / manager.
How big should each team be?
I like Jeff Bezos’s 2 pizza rule. “If you can’t feed the team with 2 pizzas, then it’s too big.”
8 – 12 people is about right.
Also, these daily updates don’t need to be ongoing forever. They are particularly useful for new staff in their first few months.
But as people prove they are self-starters and can be trusted to get their work done, then you can be a little more relaxed on requiring these daily updates.