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1x1s: The Highest Leverage Activity in Your Startup
Let me address a key objection right out of the gates.
Yes, many meetings suck.
The web is full of articles meticulously outlining the wasted time and energy of mismanaged meetings. I agree with most of them, and I'll spare you from reading another rant by admitting the following upfront—a poorly run 1x1 meeting is worse than no meeting.
Given that, why bother with 1x1s?
Because done well, they are the highest leverage activity in your startup.
That's a bold claim, but consider the following:
Personnel Costs: Salaries can account for 50% to 90% of a startup's burn rate.
Economic Costs: A failed hire can cost months of salary ($10K to $90K).
Opportunity Costs: A failed hire can delay time to market (2-6 months).
Replacing Costs: Hiring for a key role can take weeks to months.
Onboarding Costs: New hires take weeks to months to become productive.
Disengagement: Employees may be present for 40 hours but work less than 20.
Contagion: Apathy is contagious, and even top performers will be affected.
And so on.
Given this, I find it shocking that company leaders won't carve out one hour every two weeks to check in with their top 3-5 direct reports. You’re really going to invest $10,000 to $100,000 a month in payroll, yet not put in a few extra hours to make sure this investment is leading to the right results?!
In constrast, an effective 1x1 meeting can increase the following:
Clarity: Do we know what the important targets are?
Alignment: Are we working with vs. against each other?
Responsibility: Do we know who is doing what?
Accountability: Do we know where the buck stops?
Rapport: Do we enjoy working with each other?
Understanding: Do we know each other's strengths, experiences, and passions?
Trust: Through making and keeping commitments to one another.
Creativity: Are we discovering new solutions and opportunities together?
Awareness: The time & space to surface & address tough issues head on.
These 1x1s need not be daily or weekly. Done well, their effects can last a long time. It reminds me of the following quote by Mark Twain.
I can live for two months on a good compliment. — Mark Twain
Effective 1x1's can ensure that a direct report has the right target, conditions, resources, and autonomy to complete the job. Therefore, they are only needed semi-regularly to check in and correct course.
So, How Does One Get Started?
In part 2 (next week), I'll share some of the strategies and tactics I've learned over the years. However, I want to give an opportunity for you to ask questions. If you have any, drop them below, and I'll try to address them.