Energy flows where focus goes … and questions are a great way to direct focus.
Planning is one thing, “real life” is another. So, how do you give stakeholders a clear picture of what’s happening, the relevant business terrain, and the best path for them to navigate given their daily challenges and objectives?
15Five is a management tool that can help with those issues. It consists of a few simple questions that each of your direct reports has an opportunity to fill out each week.
The name, “15Five”, comes from the concept that it should take someone 15 minutes to think about and fill out their answers to these questions; while it should take you about five minutes (per person) to review those answers and give feedback. These responses can be public or private, as you see fit.
The good news is that 15Five is simple and usable. You’ve probably heard the phrase “Garbage in, garbage out.” More importantly, though, “Nothing in, nothing out.” If people don’t use a tool, it is tough to benefit from it, regardless of how “good” it is.
So, How Did Our Team Respond to This New Tool?
Predictably, after a week or two of using it, several members of the team approached me to ask how long they'd have to do this. However, just a few weeks later, some of those same people shared how much they're enjoying the process.
Ultimately, they recognize that it's helping them raise their focus from the immediate to a chunk higher. They also recognize that it's a chance to have a one-on-one conversation with their boss about what they want to talk about … without taking time away from their work or interrupting their focus time.
The 15Five process also gives respondents a chance to think about and prepare worthy answers (rather than to feel tongue-tied or regretful that they failed to mention something when they had the chance). The result is something they are likely to be proud of – and something to build upon.
For the manager, it is a chance to give individual attention to each respondent. It also provides an easy way to comment (or ask for additional information) about specific ideas. Just click a button and write your note. The other party gets an email that they can respond to directly, or they can see it in the conversation thread for that week’s report.
Where Is Value Added?
15Five helps people think about the business (rather than simply working through their daily grind). It helps them recognize why what they are doing matters, and how what they are doing helps move things in the right direction. As a result, using the tool builds confidence and momentum. Ultimately, 15Five helps people steer themselves to take appropriate actions and make better decisions.
As a trader, I understand that price is the primary indicator of the market. However, to get a better understanding, many traders use secondary indicators (like sentiment, momentum, rate of change, or even the response to good or bad news). Beyond a direct communication tool, these are the types of insights that the 15Five feedback mechanism makes possible.
For example, don't just look at one week's set of responses in a vacuum. Instead, notice the tone and the amount of care that someone uses when they send you their information.
Here is another example. If someone typically writes three or four sentences to respond to a particular question, but this week they only responded with three words, that might be an important thing to pay attention to and note.
Sometimes a non-answer is important. Last week one of the questions was “What challenges are you facing? How are you going to fix it, and where do you need help?” Someone answered that they were not facing any new challenges that week. Great, right? Or, is that really an opportunity for coaching?
In that situation, my response was: “There are always challenges. Sometimes they are easy to spot because they clearly present themselves as problems. Other times they can show up as opportunities or choices … Sometimes, however, they are harder to identify because they could stem from something as subtle as conflicting desires. Remember that the goal of the question to look above the day-to-day activities to focus on your higher level intent and purpose.”
The point is that 15Five gives you great opportunities to add value - and the time to notice coachable moments. Here are some examples:
- Is somebody telling you what they “don't want” rather than what they intend to do?
- Are they so focused on the obstacles and challenge that they forget to recognize the opportunity or potential competitive advantage?
- Are there opportunities to include other people to create a unique ability team rather than a solo effort?
- Are there things that you can express gratitude about or help the other person to feel proud about?
- Are they focused on the forest for the trees? If so, what is a quick compass check to ensure that we are moving in the right direction?
- Are they focused on the right part of the problem; and have they right-sized it into chunks small enough to work on effectively?
- What does this accomplishment make possible? And how can we continue to build confidence and momentum?
From my perspective, the thought process and preparation may be more important than the answers themselves.
So, Is It Worth Paying For?
15Five helps avoid communication problems by creating and preserving appropriate context for decision-making. In addition, it is a tool you can use to effectively direct focus and “steer” the company.
It is also worth noting that 15Five feels like a separate tool. Because of that, I suspect people respond differently to it than they would to a simple email or a discussion thread on the corporation’s private intranet.
Bottom Line: It
clearly adds value. Give it a try.