Readers of this piece are most likely to be knowledge workers i.e., those for whom a vast majority, if not all, of work is intellectual in nature. For being a successful knowledge worker, the importance of ‘Deep Work’ cannot be overstated.
Cal Newport, the author of a book on the topic (also called Deep Work), defines it as “the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task.” This task could vary depending on your specific role; writing code, creating a presentation, doing a demo or sales pitch editing a video, etc. However, another vital aspect of being a successful knowledge worker is the ability to collaborate with others. This aspect becomes even more pronounced once one becomes a ‘boss.’
Seemingly, this need for collaboration is at cross with the purpose to be able to do deep work. If, as a boss, you spend too much time ‘managing,’ doesn’t this eat into your team’s ability to perform deep work? Typically, ‘managing’ is seen as involving a lot of meetings, status updates, clearing out one’s inbox and updating several tools or processes.
To illustrate this point, we need to look no further than any knowledge worker’s calendar. Increasingly, we see the entire day full of interruptions. Several hours every day are spent in meetings without clearly defined agendas, let alone outcomes, multiple chunks of time spent ‘waiting’ for someone else to make a decision or share feedback, etc. Imagine how many countless hours would be saved if we were able to find a solution to this.
This is where the ‘One Minute Boss’ philosophy comes into the picture. Noted management guru Ken Blanchard introduced this concept in his book ‘The One Minute Manager,’ which is a must-read on this topic. The way I have seen this applied (and has been very helpful) is to break up interactions with my colleagues into short chunks, each with a specific purpose. Of course, there is no hard-and-fast rule regarding keeping the chunks to exactly one minute; the name only reminds us to keep them short, and with a single well-defined purpose. Here are some starters for readers to try out, based on personal experience:
- One Minute Catch-up: Borrowed from the Agile methodology, this is a quick status update standup meeting with your team
- One Minute Course-correction: Especially useful when an issue has cropped up; your team presents to you various well thought-through options, and then a joint course correction decision is taken
- One Minute Compliment: Someone did a great job; recognize it immediately, and preferably in the presence of others
- One Minute Criticism: Remember, don’t criticize the person, but provide constructive criticism on an action, decision or outcome
- One Minute Connection: Everyone in your team is a multi-dimensional individual with life beyond work; build a personal connection with your team members
This approach allows you to meet your purpose of ‘managing’ your team, while also keeping enough bandwidth available with everyone to perform Deep Work. Another significant impact of following the ‘One Minute Boss’ philosophy is that it forces you to be very specific and precise about what you want to communicate, as well as the impact you wish to have. This self-imposed focus can go a long way in improving your effectiveness and that of your team. Even team members can apply these to their interactions and communication to make it more effective. I’ve seen many of these formats being used over the years, and they have the potential of making a strong impact on your performance as a boss. I would urge all managers and working professionals to try them out.