The 50/50 Format: Improve your Check-ins with your Team Members
I synthesized the meeting format I used with team members into a structure I labeled the “50/50 Check-In.”The first 50 represents what I as the manager want to get out of the meeting. The second 50 represents what my team member needs to get out of the meeting. Each “50” represents 50 percent so we divide up the meeting evenly between those two agendas. Here are topics you probably want to cover in each of those 50s.
The Manager’s 50 – Identify the information you want to get out of these meetings. These should include:
- Morale – Basically, how are they feeling about things? How is their morale? How is general morale? It’s a good icebreaker to kick off the meeting in a personal way. You may want to come up with a more fun name like “Pulse-Check” to make is sound less stiff.
- Objectives Progress – How is your team member progressing against their individual objectives? What is new since the last time you met? How close are they to their year-end goal? By asking those questions on a regular basis, you are letting your team members know you expect constant progress. I particularly like the “what’s new lately” question so I get a sense for how fast things are moving. It’s also a chance to celebrate small wins.
- Needs from You – What do they need from you to help them get their objectives completed? Do they need you to make a decision for them? Do they need additional resources? Do they need you to provide some “air cover” to get them through some organizational or bureaucratic barrier?
- Upward Feedback – You should ask them for any feedback on how you are doing to help you continue your own personal and professional development. A simple way to elicit this is through the following five questions: What should I do more? What should I do less? What should I stop doing? What should I start doing? What should I do differently? Obviously this upward feedback requires a great degree of trust to be honest and useful. If you haven’t been part of a “feedback culture” it could be a good idea to get some training for your team and write down some shared principles and ground-rules.
The Team Member’s 50 – Identify what information your team members should get out of the meeting. These include:
- Objectives Feedback – Is their progress against their objectives meeting your expectations in terms of quality, timing, and efficiency? Think about the next performance review you will have to write on them and give them your honest sense of where they are trending to. Performance reviews should never be a surprise at the end of the year.
- Competencies Feedback – How are they doing in demonstrating and building the skills they need to be successful in your organization and their role? This is a separate topic from their Objectives feedback. For example, they could be progressing fine on their objectives but if they are making work harder for everyone else on the team, they need to know that. If your organization has a structured performance management framework with required competencies by job type and level, use that as a framework.
- Coaching – Where they are doing well, give them positive reinforcement. Where they are not quite where they need to be yet, help them learn. What skills or behaviors do they need to build to continue their progression on their desired career path? Talk with them to figure out what they are short on. Suggest training they should get or people they should talk to fill those gaps. Ask them to research training options to propose to you. Give them the benefits of your own lessons learned if applicable.
- Open Door – Is there anything else on their mind that they want to know or they want you to know about? I highly recommend an “Open Door” (or better yet, a “No Door” ) policy for managers to make themselves accessible to team members. Make this part of the meeting a natural chance for this to happen.
In addition to making the most of the 50/50 meeting time itself, there are things you should do right before and after each meeting to make them the most productive. These are great tasks an executive assistant can help you make happen consistently.
- Email any specific topic items you want to cover to your team member at least 48 hours before your meeting. Your executive assistant can kick this off by asking you at the right time and capturing those in an email sent to both of you.
- Ask your team member to send you any agenda items or materials they want to cover in advance too. If they are looking for you to make a decision, ask them to let you know. Once again your executive assistant can manage this for you via emails.
- After the meeting, summarize and share any Action Items (i.e., the “to do’s” ) that came out of the meeting. These should be a relatively short list of short sentences, each with a clear “who,” “what” and “when” included. Your executive assistant can help you with this. It’s also a great idea to have the action items from the last meeting printed out and included as an attachment to the agenda for the meeting. You can discuss that in the Objectives Progress part of the meeting.
Finally, how long and how often should these meetings be? It depends on your situation – e.g., how many direct reports you have – but an hour every one or two weeks is a good goal. A half an hour weekly can perhaps too. Start with one of those and figure out what works best for you. You want to find the “sweet spot” in frequency since there is a bunch of pre-work that goes into each one that you will want to make sure will consistently get done. One thing to consider in setting the frequency is the nice little secret benefit of the 50/50 – they make easy natural deadlines and check-ins for the new things you ask your team members to do.