“There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by e-mail… that’s crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions.” – Steve Jobs
While he valued face to face engagements and meetings, Jobs had nothing but disdain for the typical corporate ‘death by powerpoint’ session. What he looked for was live engagement and problem solving.
The hectic pace of physical therapy, with what sometimes seems like every moment taken by scheduled patient care makes it difficult to create time for face to face engagement. While we occasionally make time for clinical education activities like journal clubs, it is easy to replace face to face engagement for leadership activities with phone or email communication.
Creating regular face to face engagement is difficult in organizations like our private practice, with 17 facilities spread across a few hundred miles. In even larger companies with hundreds of facilities, face to face engagement between executives and local team leaders is even more rare. My short stint working with US Physical Therapy (we were temporarily partners after an acquisition) showed me the reality of this. The executive I reported to had about 260 direct reports. We met face to face perhaps twice each year.
Face to face engagement… which we affectionately term 121s (one to ones) between a leader and those they lead is a key leadership task. In my opinion it is a key component of the cadence of accountability we should try to maintain with our teams. One of the most difficult but most rewarding activities we have undertaken as our practice has grown has been to maintain a regular regimen of contacts between our leaders and those they lead. Here is an example cadence that has worked well for me:
- Weekly – small group, very focused video teleconference focused on activities being completed to meet our most important goals. We do 3 of them to allow small groups so they take no more than 20′.
- Monthly – face to face 121s between leaders and those they lead.
- Quarterly – Summits with key leaders meeting to share results, insights and progress toward meeting goals.
- Annually – Strategic planning with a small, focused group and then subsequent meetings to share aspirations and strategies with the entire team.
I believe that your average ‘meeting’ is a great way to avoid working. That said, focused face to face engagement and communication between leaders and those they lead is essential to building a great team.