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Submitted by margaret_winn on


 BLUF: I just received responsibility for the 8 people in Finance on Friday and want to start doing O3s.  We have 3 team-leads (A/P, A/R and Project Order Entry) and they each have 1-3 people they "manage" (but really, they are more team leads or entry-level supervisors).  I want to do O3s with everyone, even the 5 people that are, under a strict definition, my skips - does that sound reasonable? 


I started as Controller/CFO for a rapidly growing engineering firm 3 months ago, with the plan being I would take over management of the finance staff from my boss, the Group Manager for Administrative Services (Finance/Safety/HR/IT/Facilities) once we cleaned up some financial reporting issues.  

The problems were much deeper than anyone realized, and he and I have both been buried in redoing the accounting system conversion that made scrambled eggs of the financials (courtesy of my predecessor). So new software, new systems, new people in many roles and a steep learning curve for the overall company making the new, "better" system do what is needed to run the business. We're coming out of the weeds now, and the hand-off of managerial responsibility happened last Friday.

O3s will be completely new in this environment, and as I've talked with the three team-leads, they are excited by the prospect of meeting regularly. In corporate-speak here, they are referred to as "managers" of the other employees. From what I've seen it is more of a team-lead role than even a true supervisory role. That is why I think of their teams as only "semi" skips of mine, and why I want to do O3s with them, too.

What do you think? Any pitfalls to avoid? Anyone had a similar experience? My boss is fine with me managing the department however I see fit. And I could see eventually transitioning the team leads to doing formal O3s with their people, but not right away.

Thanks for your help.


farmerf59's picture

If you see the team leads as eventually transitioning to performing their own O3's, then I would suggest that acknowledges their role as the team lead and therefore the other employees as your skip (as opposed to semi-skip).  In that case, I would respect their position as team lead, commence O3's with them, then seek roll down in the future.  If they require feedback and coaching to better perform their role or exercise team lead functions, all the better, just more material for you to work with.  Alternatively, seek change to departmental role descriptions in a way that formalizes you as the line manager of each of the directs.  Good luck.

jrb3's picture
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Congrats on the new position, and the new department, and setting the foundation for the upcoming company growth!

My impression, drawn mainly from experience in the software industry, is that team-leads purely handle coordination of the "technical" (non-management) activity.  In this view, since team-leads don't hire/fire and don't write the yearly review, they're "senior peers" rather than managers.  Whoever writes the yearly review for someone certainly benefits from one-on-ones, to keep good contact and relationship with the reviewee.  And I suspect it's very bad for one person to have multiple people giving them one-on-ones (multiple managers) ....

If this model fits your situation, then you have three leads and five juniors (one each for two leads plus three for the third) as your eight directs.  That's doable for one manager.  You host eight one-on-ones, one per direct of yours.

Next, though, is figuring out what the expected company growth is going to do to your department.  If, say, the company is going to double in size in the next two years, your department is probably going to roughly double as well.  That's too many directs for one manager, so you will need to grow at least one true manager under you.  "What is the role" is a distinct, and different, question from "who fills a given role".  Maybe you'll grow both the roles and the people organically, and the current lead-of-three becomes your manager-of-six (leaving you seven directs [thus one-on-ones and yearly reviews] total:  one manager, two leads, four juniors).

What change you anticipate in the coming years will help guide how you encourage people to develop.  In the software industry, practice seems to that a team-lead gaining a fourth junior either sheds a junior and stays technical, or soon gains a team-lead out of those four and becomes managerial.  It's very hard to be half-technical and half-managerial;  few can stay effective at both.  Many companies use half-and-half roles as permanent assignments, to their detriment.

-- Joseph (DiSC 4247)


margaret_winn's picture
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Thanks FARMERF59 and Joseph for the thoughtful and helpful responses.  The way I'm leaning right now is to roll out one-on-ones with the three team-leads and see how it goes. I don't know how territorial they will be about "their" people, and I figure once they get over the fear/threat factor of meeting with me EVERY WEEK and I build trust with them that it WILL be a meeting that continues and not just a "grand scheme" or flavor-of-the-month, then I, and they, will have a better idea of what will be an appropriate level of involvement for me with the most junior people. 

Reviews are not a formal process here, either, so "who writes the review" is a GREAT clarifying question. And I don't know the answer. I don't actually know if there are written reviews. I know -- something that a thorough interview would have covered, but it was a VERY fast hire -- I'd just started looking for work after recently moving to a new state, they had a desperate need and I had the exact skill set they needed. I heard about the job on a Sunday, interviewed on Monday and started on that Wednesday. :-)

I've listened to MT and CT for the past 5 years while in a freelance/individual contributor role and been itching to manage a team again. I fell like I am SO much better equipped now that I've learned how to do it  well. Thanks to Mark & Mike (and Dani at the Ashburn, VA conference about 18 months ago) & thanks for great help from Wendii with my resume.