My time at AJ+ was great and one of the things I had time to reflect on was management. In any business, trust and communication are key. Whenever there is tension, these two are likely culprits.
If you don’t trust the people you work with – nobody will delegate. If you can’t effectively communicate who is doing what, then no amount of trust will solve the fact that wires will get crossed.
A natural solution to this problem is “the meeting.” At its most existential moment the “meeting” is a tool to address an issue and create trust/communication among stakeholders so everyone can move forward.
Any newsroom with a daily cycle has a morning ‘budget’ meeting. This is where everyone sits in a circle and talks about what they are going to tackle that day. Because this meeting is essential and daily it sets the tone for all other meetings. This is where an organizational pace is set.
The downside: It becomes a list of things somebody is working on. At its worst, it is a resume-like list of things said without care just so everyone can move on.
Here’s something to try every now and then and a way to also set a different tone on any given day/week.
Take an extra 10 minutes and start a meeting with “I don’t want to know what you’re working on, I want to know how you feel.”
It’s disorienting. And the first few times people might not know exactly how to respond. But it’s a great way to build communication and trust in a broader sense. Not about who is covering what, but about who needs help. Where pain happens. If you want to build trust, you have to expose vulnerability. And that’s not easy in a professional setting. But if you ask this question (and you should be ready to answer yourself) it’s a good way to create head space for those tougher conversations.
DID YOU WIN?
Midway through my time at AJ+ I was reminded of an old internal challenge with myself when I lived in New York. Every day in New York was a battle, I’d joke, and at the end of the day you have to tally who won – you or the city.
I began to ask individuals: “Did you win today?”
It’s an easy question to comprehend. It has a definitive answer, but allows for an open ended discussion if needed. It’s informative, especially if the answer is “no.” People only respond in the negative if something is specifically on their mind. All things being even – “winning” is the way we want to see ourselves. (Side note: I started this by offering people a win/lose/draw option, but the tendency towards “draw” as an answer was too much and I removed it from the possible responses).
I would ask this question to people on other teams whenever I had the chance. Daily if I could. It exposed me to the struggles on other teams that would otherwise be under the radar to me.
My team knew that on Fridays we wouldn’t have our morning “what are you doing and/or feeling” meeting and instead we’d huddle in the afternoon to talk about if we won or lost the week. It was always one of the more informative moments of the week for me and even better – a great ‘team building’ experience. If you have a space where people can admit “loss” but acknowledge wins, the team begins to take responsibility for each other. We can have tough conversations about what went wrong that might have thrown the whole week off. And doing it on Friday means that next week is a whole new ballgame.