At times, as a leader, your employees will stop by or catch you in the hallway with the infamous question, "Do you have a minute?" If you’ve ever been engaged in one of these discussions, you know that these conversations are never as short as one minute. In fact, my research shows that the average "do you have a minute" discussion is greater than thirty minutes in length. I have written my share of articles about the need to have more process surrounding these discussions and the importance of minimizing the use of the open door policy. However, there are times when people need to catch you and it can’t wait until your standard one-on-one meeting. In these moments, make the best use of the time.
I started my career in health care where the environment is more prone to the drive-by meeting. After all, people's lives are on the line. There are some lessons I think leaders everywhere could learn from the approach used in hospitals to address urgent concerns and guide discussions. In an effort to improve patient safety, hospitals use the Situation Background Assessment Recommendation (SBAR) method. By making just a few modifications to the healthcare approach, leaders can use this method to improve the efficiency of the drive-by meeting when it’s necessary
Process for the drive-by "you got a minute?"
Be sure each of your employees is familiar with the framework they should use when they need to catch you for a quick conversation.
Briefly explain the issue, who is involved, and what decision should be made (if any)
Be prepared to share what has been tried and the outcomes of those attempts (plural)
Share the gravity of the situation including the probability and potential impact of the issue
Briefly share your suggestion for what action should occur and how you can help
If you fail to create a process for the drive-by meeting, several things will occur.
- First, you will waste a lot of time on drama and unimportant matters. When folks walk through the model, many times they will resolve the issue themselves or determine that it isn’t urgent and can wait until your regularly scheduled staff meeting.
- Second, without the accountability that is built into the recommendation portion, you will find yourself over managing and under leading.
- Finally, without a model you will rob your direct reports of developmental opportunities by encouraging them to seek you out for the answer instead of coming to you having demonstrated a sense of resilience and commitment to build their muscles as problem solvers as well.
And whatever you do, don’t use that "minute" for BMW driving – the most common reason why people drop by!
Want to learn more about standard one-on-ones or building accountability in your team? Pick up a copy of Reality-Based Leadership.