I'm a new manager, and on my team, I have three direct reports (let's call them John, Paul, and George). I have started doing weekly One-on-One's with each. Paul has his own direct report (Ringo). I call Ringo my (in)direct report.

Should I be doing a weekly O3 with Ringo as well? Is it appropriate or ok?

I'm of two minds on the subject:

1. On one hand, I think it's important to establish a relationship with Ringo. We are a small team and work very closely together. It seems unfair and unbalanced to have good relationships with everyone save one person.

2. On the other, I don't want to seem like I'm usurping Paul's authority.

Any thoughts?

At your service,
Michael E. Rubin

ryanem's picture
theminingman's picture

Hi Ryanem and Michael,

I'm in a similar situation to Michael, a small team of three including myself.  Previous manager of the team set it up with the junior reporting to the senior, and the senior reporting to the manager (now me).  So three people in a team, all working closely together on similar work, but all in a vertical structure of three levels.  

It's a massive pain and I'm working to unravel it now.  The senior in the middle was given supervision of the junior as a "development opportunity", so there is understandably some issues with taking that part of their role away.  It's just making the team structure unclear and difficult - i.e. the senior does the formal reviews on the junior, and I allocate work to both and do formal approvals of expenses and travel for both.  All of this compounded by the junior needing a lot of development work over the coming months which I don't feel the senior has the experience of tools to provide.

SO... in my case (and possibly similar to Michael), a bi-monthly skip level review isn't enough to build the relationship, and I easily have enough time to do two O3s a week.  I'm new and trying to form relationships with both of my reports, like Michael.  I'm having O3s with both the senior and junior.  (And a dotted line report that I recently took on as well).

I explained to the senior (my Paul from Michael's scenario) that the O3s were to develop relationships and nothing really to do with reporting lines, and hence I would be doing them with everyone.

My advice Michael would be to do them with all of the team, including Ringo.  Three things you could say if you suspect any pushback from Paul:

1. I'm doing these O3s initially to build relationships.  I won't be giving out work, following up status, or giving feedback to Ringo without letting you know.  All these will still go through you, Paul.

2. By me doing O3s with both of you (Paul and Ringo), you'll both be able to see the way the work and learn the process by participating.

3. At some point Paul, I'll ask you to start doing O3s with Ringo, and then I will stop meeting with Ringo.

I probably wouldn't recommend Ringo doing O3s with both yourself and Paul - that could be complicated.

I think in small teams, the direct / skip-level division isn't so clear, and likewise the flow of information, reporting and task assignment isn't always through Paul and down to Ringo.  For example Michael, I'm sure in your weekly staff meeting you invite Ringo along as well right?  (Hopefully).



Melbourne, Australia