1:1's & Corporate Anxieties
|Reggie James||May 31|
*extreme Kanye voice* // “We don’t hope. We just do.”
Lately, I’ve viewed my role as a founder-ceo as a facilitator-editor. I think 1:1’s are a primary tool for facilitating.
Deeper than what Eternal - the product people hold in their hand is, before I can philosophize on the merits of real time digital presence… The most important job I have, is making Eternal the best place to work. Where everyone feels that their peers are some of the most talented folks they’ve ever met. And collectively, we are doing deeply meaningful and creative work together.
There’s a lot that goes into this that I enjoy doing with Luca. Everything, from the outside that may seem trivial like making the new office a spot that genuinely feels dope to come to daily — to most recently, a religious follow through on 1-on-1’s.
Every management book from “High Output Management” by Andy Grove to the rewrite by Ben Horowitz talks about the need for 1:1’s. But in my time before Eternal (working at JUMP Bikes & Dreams), 1:1’s always felt like a checkup appointment on the daily mechanics of work. Very ~ open and say ahhhhhhhhh ~
What are we, as founders and (let’s just say) management, trying to do with 1:1’s?
I’m not going to give you my personal model for 1:1’s, because it’s mine. And I also don’t think it’s a universal formula. It works for me (for now) and I don’t want to mislead you into thinking it’s some silver bullet. It won’t be… this work is deeply human. There’s never a formula when pulling at that which is human.
I will lay out what I think we are trying to get out of 1:1’s and help you to ideally become a stronger founder or manager + individual contributor if you’re sitting on the other side of the table. This is equally about managing up as it’s about running a meaningful process.
What are we doing? How are we doing? How are you doing?
At the core, this is about making work meaningful for the individual. It’s a tremendous privilege to build a company, build the mutual respect that comes with hiring, to genuinely want to do a thing.
And yet… we ruin this time and time again.
How do we get in the way of meaningful work? What even is meaningful work?
I would define it this way: an individual’s ability to see the relationship from the agency they have over their direct work to the manifestation of an organization’s goals they mutually believe in.
Plenty gets in the way of this. Organizational bloat. Role’s that are non-critical / not feeding into any core loops. Not giving individuals the agency required to produce great work. Management’s inability to communicate high level strategy. An individual contributor simply trying to coast for a paycheck and get out of there at 5pm.
But at an early stage, when culture is still malleable and getting set with each day that passes. These can’t be excuses. You can’t have bloat at 8 people. You can’t coast at 8 people. That’s automatic failure, and you should be able to feel that immediately. (bluntly said, fire them if this is true)
At early stage, I think that meaning comes with shared clarity. Like a mirror that collects dust from the movement around it, clarity is a daily audit.
No matter how many design specs exists. Trello cards get added. Clarity can quickly distort into navigating a funhouse if you’re not careful. You should have more slash-through’s than ideas on docs, always.
At the core, 1:1’s are about pulling out the shared collective anxieties. Whether that anxiety is about shared strategy or an individual’s direction within it… we are all becoming together.
What I’ve learned, very quickly is that silent fears tend to be shared fears. And it can snowcrash your execution, slowly, parasitically, and then you’re in a situation. You never want to be in a situation.
If your job as a manager/founder/etc is to run at the most important problems & you believe your team is hyper-capable. You should hold their anxieties seriously.
On the other side of that coin, IC’s cannot live in fear of relaying this information up-chain. There’s a lot that goes into that ability to communicate transparently to management.
Reminds me of the one scene in Silicon Valley where Hooli’s middle out platform is hella delayed, and Gavin thinks they’ll have a video platform ready for a huge launch but the further down the chain you go, the more you realize they are several months off target.
We must pull out the anxieties through intentional conversation. Create the space for that to be expressed. Cross reference the anxieties to see what the shared through-line is. Address that as a team.
This part is incredibly important. You can’t death grip crafting solutions in isolation.
Again, if this team was assembled for their collective ability. This too is part of their job. Grant agency for the team to work through the shared anxieties they are experiencing. The solutions and articulations that will result from this will be far more organic. It’s the difference between a collective body that reaches an answer vs a top down answer that the body is being forced to accept… this is what happens far too often. Which doesn’t increase buy-in, nor clarity. And is ultimately useless at best, and an accelerant to the already present anxiety at worst.
I am now realizing how I’ve only pulled on one thread within the new found awareness I’m currently experiencing with 1:1’s. And I want to stop writing to move on to other work.
I think I focused so much around the idea of collective silent anxieties, because it’s one of those traits that can rear its head in so many ways within an organization. It’ll distort communication up chain, it’ll create misalignment across different parts of the project, it’ll weaken execution on design, people won’t feel as confident as they should feel, people won’t have fun in a more general sense… and this compounds!
So I’m going to put a pin in it here, and hopefully come back to make this a wider series.
I don’t do edits really, so excuse typos and things that don’t make sense.
Thanks so much for giving me your attention. I hope it was worth it, if not… unsubscribing will not hurt my feelings, and will give you back time you literally cannot have back.
Live in the light