Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer conducted a study in which they asked 238 managers to keep a daily diary answering whether or not they were motivated at work that day. Over the course of 12,000 diary entries, a trend emerged: days of high motivation were the result of “making progress on meaningful work.”
This sounds pretty straightforward, but ask yourself, how would you know you’re making such progress? What would tell you your work is meaningful to the organization? This requires some type of feedback signal—most often the word of your supervisor. As a manager, if you speed up the feedback loop through candid, frequent interactions with your direct reports, you can boost team-wide motivation by setting the stage for all of them to make progress on meaningful work.
The only problem is that the primary mechanism for feedback in most organizations is the performance review. Whether conducted annually, semi-annually, or quarterly, these reviews are hardly speedy, and the feedback provided is often reactive, not proactive, like a grade card that reports how you did, not how you’re doing. The author Dan Pink calls such performance reviews “the West’s form of kabuki theatre—highly stylized rituals in which people recite predictable lines in a formulaic way and hope the experience ends very quickly.”
There is a growing trend among companies to kill the performance review. Harvard Business Review reports that “by some estimates, more than one-third of U.S. companies are doing just that,” including stalwarts such as Accenture, GE, IBM, and Adobe. These companies know that infrequent and formal appraisals don’t work, and are replacing them with the opposite: a frequent and informal feedback mechanism known as the 1:1.
Knowing that 1:1s are a great tool and making them effective are two different things, so here are two great reads to help you do that.
Up first, “The Art of the Awkward 1:1” by Mark Rabkin, the VP of Ads, Engineering & Product at Facebook. “If it’s not a bit awkward, you’re not talking about the real stuff,” writes Rabkin, who provides two simple rules for making this happen:
- Don’t talk about any topic that you could discuss in the open
- Commit to saying one rather awkward thing every 1:1, and get the other person to commit too
If you think this sounds like a refreshing way to connect with your team, but aren’t sure where to start, read #2 is for you.
“Questions for our first 1:1” by Lara Hogan offers a tactical guide to start embracing the awkward. Hogan, the vice president of engineering at Kickstarter, says it’s never too late to start asking these questions. “Just tee them up with, I’d like to ask you some cheesy questions to help me better-support you,” she says.