Culture Change: Your Role as a Manager

So we know what an amazing work culture looks like, and we have our step-by-step guide to getting everyone involved. But you, my manager friend, have much more you can be doing to implement positive culture change. Let’s focus on the one strategy that is going to give you the BIGGEST bang for your buck: weekly one-on-ones.

Weekly One-on-One Basics

Okay, when I first heard this advice from Kevin Kruze on the LeadX Leadership Podcast – I thought, “OH HELL NO!”. Haha, seriously. I thought how in the world do I have time for MORE MEETINGS? So I get it guys, I know what’s going on in your head right now but hear me out first. You won’t regret it.

Here are the basics for ya (which you can listen to on the LeadX Podcast here). You are going to challenge yourself to trying these weekly one-on-ones for at least one month! That’s when you’ll really start seeing the benefits.

You’ll set a weekly, 25-minute meeting with each of your direct reports as a recurring calendar invite for you two. Set it during a time that is slowest for both of you, and commit to these times. DO NOT CANCEL OR RESCHEDULE. You’ll do more damage by scheduling them then cancelling, than you would’ve if you just wouldn’t have scheduled them at all so you HAVE to make the commitment and see it through. You’re setting these meetings primarily to listen to your direct reports and build your relationship and alignment.

After a month, you’re going to find that you are interrupted much less often, your team is aligned, your relationships with your direct reports are growing organically, and your resolving problems before they ever get out of hand.

The Who, When, and Where

Again, these meetings are just for you and your direct reports. If you’re a CEO of a company with 200 employees you aren’t going to set one-on-ones with all of them – rather you’d just set them with the executive team that has no other managers they report to but you.

You’ll set them weekly, and preferably recurring at the same time on your calendar. That way you both get the hang of protecting that time and it doesn’t become a scheduling issue for you. On the LeadX Podcast (you can listen to this specific episode here), Kevin suggests scheduling all of your one-on-ones back-to-back on Mondays. It gets everyone’s week off to the right start and you know that you and your team are starting the week on the same page.

Make sure that your one-on-ones are scheduled somewhere privately. If your office isn’t private, find a conference room or take a walk together so you can ensure confidentiality and privacy for these meetings. You’re building trust and rapport here so you need to create a space where your team member feels most comfortable.

The Perfect Agenda

Alright, so you know the logistics now but what do these one-on-ones actually consist of? JUST these following 5 questions:

  1. How was your weekend?
  2. What’s on your mind?
  3. What’s your most important task this week?
  4. How can I help?
  5. Okay, here’s what I’ve got for you.

You’re starting off with something personal, because as we know we need to form human-to-human relationships with our team members. Don’t skip this! Then we head onto a more vague question, “What’s on your mind?”,  which has proven to be my absolute FAVORITE question. The answers always surprise me and I learn something about my team member’s work environment that I would’ve never thought to ask about. Then you hone in on the most important task of their week – this is to ensure that the two of your are aligned on your priorities. You offer your help, which doesn’t mean you take on their responsibilities by the way. And then you close out the last few minutes with what you need to update them on and prioritize for the week.

Trust me, stick just to this format for that month of testing, it really works perfectly. Now, you may have a Chatty Cathy on your hands so you have to take the lead on being the timekeeper. If someone is eating up all of the time remind them of how much time they have left so you can stick to your schedule. If they are still going over, let them know you’ll have to table the rest of their discussion until next week’s one-on-one meeting. Sticking to this will enforce the expectation that these meetings are 25 minutes and 25 minutes only. Hear this episode in Kevin’s words directly here.

Handling Questions & Objections

Not only do you probably have questions and objections right now, your also going to hear objections and questions from your team. This episode on the LeadX Podcast really helps you prepare your narrative to make sure you give this thing a real shot. Remind your team that it’s only 25 minutes per week, that these meetings will make sure you can serve them best as a leader, and that they will always be quick and productive.

Start this off by giving them a little primer, that this is just a test for one month and then you’ll both reevaluate at that time to make sure it’s working for both of you. Let them know they do not have to prepare anything, just show up for a conversation. Remind them that this is their opportunity to share anything on their mind and that you will do everything you can (short of legal issues) to keep their confidentiality. Put this on their calendar for two weeks from now so they have time to wrap their heads around it and also let them know that you will not cancel or reschedule unless there is an actual client emergency or emergency from your boss (AND STICK TO THAT).

So, What Now?

I suggest listening to the podcasts linked above to reinforce everything and then get those recurring appointments on you and your team’s calendars! Have fun and share your experiences with us in the comments. If you have any trouble or questions throw those in the comments as well and we’ll get back to ya as soon as we can.

Talk soon,


PS – our last post in this series will be on the Executive role in culture change, make sure you’re signed up for our email list to get notified when it drops!