Tuesday, February 26, 2008

10 Minute Check Up - A Cure All

The 10 minute checkup is a sweet little management tool I've used incessantly since I learned it back in Venezuela at AXLDS 2004. It's a way to help you manage a team, better understand another human, and/or "get more" out of others. I've used it to those ends and more.

If you over analyze it you are missing the point. If you underestimate it you are missing serious potential.

When I was helping develop and lead my LC, this was my main method for understanding the membership; who might fit best where, which project this person would be most interested in, who to call to party, who would need extra help getting integrated, who would likely drop out.

So it works. Here's what you do.

The Problem

The problem with running a team is how easy it is to get caught up in busy work, those pressing deadlines, or whatever grand task you have, and lose sight of your real duty as leader - maximizing the output of your team. And when you lose site of your team's happiness, matching each teammate's strengths to necessary tasks, and overall interest, your team under performs.

So how can you easily figure out which person will best execute which tasks?
How can you quickly gauge happiness level?
How can you be sure each person is increasing the fluidity of your team, not taking it away?

The Answer

You take 10 minutes a week/day/moon (speed and follow up is your call) and ask just those kinds of questions.

Literally ask your VP, buddy, underling, or whatever, to "grab a coffee"... and then ask those questions. How you lead into it I'll leave to your own social skills.

You'll be surprised where it will lead.

When I did this with someone who had just joined the LC, I'd ask questions to help me better understand their interests, personality type, work mentality, and where I thought them to be in "AIESEC-ness."

When I did this as a VP, I'd ask questions to gauge happiness like "How do you feel about the work we've been doing? What don't you like about it? What can I as VP do to improve XX for you and the team?" Obviously, the better you are at asking questions, the better this turns out. I'm not sure if I've mastered that part, but trying to get information is better than swimming in ignorance.

I've seen these relationships morph into so many different things. I once started out as somewhat of a mentor, and then was later VP'ed by the person. Other times I realized how much I didn't really like the person (let's be honest) and thus knew to minimize interaction with them, making it better for both of us.

This very simple technique, if used persistently and in a nuanced fashion, will vastly improve your ability to gauge your team on a variety of levels.

Final note: let me reiterate how flexible this methodology is. If you're not running a team of some sort (why aren't you?), use it to better get to know people in your class, meet new coworkers, network with workers in other departments, or whatever.

It can and will work wonders. Now try it out, and share questions, results, or related stories in your own blog or in the comments.

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