Personal Communications: Catching the 5:15 Train of Thought

By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy

Here’s an idea to help you better prepare for your weekly staff update meeting.

A 5/15 takes 5 minutes to read and 15 minutes to write

         It’s 5:15 on a Friday afternoon. Do you know where your staff is? Of course not. Not in a digital, work any-where, any-time, any-how world.

     Yet the most effective leaders I know always knew where their staff was COMING FROM on or about 5:15 pm on a Friday.

      A 5:15 is an e-mail that each staff member sends to the team leader by the end of business on Friday.  This e-mail update should take no more than:

      5 minutes to READ and
15 minutes to WRITE.

       Pithy. Pointed. Precise. And often strategically insightful to the team leader who can then use the information –from customer concerns to competitive gossip heard on the street–to better prepare for his or her staff meeting the following week.

       In addition to the usual content in a status report– key wins and losses, operational glitches and expected challenges the following week–the 5:15 also asks each staff member to grade their own morale and suggest how the company could improve.

      “The nice thing is that I can pick up trends or problems quickly,” said one leader. “I can forward these notes to the proper people to solve problems or capitalize on opportunities.”

  Stay More Vigilant Listening to the Customer

      The assignment itself of having to catch the 5:15 Train of Thought every Friday forces each staff member to be more vigilant throughout the week not only in really listening to customers but also documenting their concerns and stimulating follow-up the following week. The 5:15 also forces staff members to really think about what they did personally this past week to make the company more successful.

       Andy Grove, then the CEO at Intel, saw this kind of ad hoc personal communications, as a beneficial mental exercise. The process of writing for 15 minutes on what you did the previous week to make the company successful, what problems you encountered and solved, what snafus your corrected reaffirms the value of the employee to himself or herself, let alone to the company. “Writing a report is important. Reading it often is not,” Grove observed.

     Seth Godin, author of Linchpin, echoes the importance or writing as a thinking tool in discussing blogging.  “It  doesn’t matter if anyone reads it. What matters is the meta condition of thinking about what you are going to say.” Write On!

       May you all catch the 5:15 every Friday afternoon to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition. I look forward to learning from you how you maintain a strategic sense of communications with your team rather than the usual texting tactics that seem to overload if not overwhelm.

Today’s ImproveMINT
Catch the 5/15 every Friday afternoon to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.

You might also like these previous Leadership Mints on writing in Personal Communications:
E-mail Etiquette
Saying I’m Sorry The Write Way
Embedding with The Naked Scientist

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