I have a direct who just cannot accept that I want to meet with him in an O3 setting, even just every other week.  Our last meeting, he tried to cancel and I proposed that we instead have our O3 in the car on the way to a client.  This latest O3 scheduling has been a little tougher - see below for e-mail which begins with him declining the Outlook appointment and ends with a response that seems a lot like insubordination to me. 
This direct is considered a superstar in the company and I am his new boss as of about 6 months ago when I was hired.  He has a relationship with my supervisor, who originally hired him about 3 years ago, and has discussed plans to relocate geographically within the company.  I am torn between:
1) being firm on this as a matter of principal and as an example to others (meaning I don't want others to see him not having O3's and wonder why he's so special), and
2) and just letting it go knowing that he'll likely move on to be some other manager's problem. 
Any and all advice appreciated.
From: Direct
To: Boss
Subject: RE: O3
Marketing – <<name of client>>
Projects – <<name of client>>, <<name of client>>, <<name of client>>
I’d like to discuss these meetings when you have time.
From: Boss
To: Direct
Subject: RE: O3
I heard your request and rest assured that I am not asking anything of you that I‘m not asking of every other person in our operation, including principals.
If you are asking to cancel this one meeting due to an extremely heavy workload, that’s fine. Instead, please provide me a written summary by Thursday COB detailing your current ongoing projects, marketing efforts, and any issues with which you need assistance.
We’ll resume our meetings on 10/21.
From: Direct
To: Boss
Subject: RE: O3
I’d like to wait until the next one, and shift these to once per month actually, as I mentioned before.
From: Boss
To: Direct
Subject: RE: O3
Please propose an alternate date/time for this meeting.
-----Original Appointment-----
From: Direct
Subject: Declined: O3

Have to get a deliverable markup out today, so I’d like to cancel this meeting today.

ashdenver's picture

I was that DR not too long ago.  I used to bristle at the idea of O3s.  I flat out told one boss "Dude, I don't have time for this. I'll let you know when I need to talk about something. Just let me do the work and we'll both be happy."  Luckily he was a boss who wouldn't be in the top 25 managers I've ever had and he was content having the least amount to do with us DR's as possible so he was fine with it.

The corporate policy around here is the bi-weekly O3 that goes for an hour each time and uses some horrific "Workload Review" form which is essentially a tool to document all the things a DR isn't doing well or at all.  (It's quite demoralizing, really.)  It's possible that your DR has a similar taste in his mouth - that an O3 means "an hour of monotony, dealing with back-end trivial stuff" rather than "a cooperative & productive discussion to facilitate both the DR's and Boss's performance goals." 

When I made manager, I rolled out the O3's (probably too soon but that's another story) and I went into the rollout with the bad taste in my mouth.  Once we all got into the groove of things, the O3's were actually pretty pleasant. It was more conversational - "What can I do to help you meet your goals? What's going on that I should know about? Are you experiencing any push-back that I could help get resolved?"  By positioning myself and the O3's as "a way to make the DR's work-life easier" they went over pretty well.

I'm sure longer-term MT'ers will be along to give you more appropriate MT-aligned advice but my two cents at this point would be to try to sneak them in.  "Sure, that's fine - we can cancel for today."  And then Friday morning "Hey DR, got a few minutes to chat? What's going on ... what can I do ... how's tricks?"  If he doesn't have time on Friday morning, "When would be a better time for you?" And just keep a meeting invite on your calendar to call him or talk to him every week. 

As MT'ers will point out, the O3 can do a lot to cut out the extraneous "Boss, I need your help / put out this fire / deal with this / what about that?" interruptions and if you can "train" this DR into seeing you pop up like a bad penny every week, he'll get accustomed to your presence.

The other thing is that, contrary to the MT "rules" - when I did my O3s, I had one person who wouldn't speak much at all for the first dozen or so meetings. I didn't try to force the meeting to stay at 30 mins.  I'd share what I had, I'd try to elicit feedback from the DR, I'd ask open ended questions and get "It's okay" in response.  I think I timed one of those early O3's at about 2 minutes.  After about six months together, with me NOT giving up on the O3s, continually calling (all virtual team) and continually asking the same types of questions week after week after week, she began to prepare for them and expect them.  Toward the end, she and I would use about 25 mins which was a remarkable transformation.  By not giving up and providing consistency and making it easier for the DR and positioning myself as their advocate & mentor, those O3s became VERY productive.

*two cents*

DiSC profile: 7-2-1-5

tberge's picture

Thank you for the feedback.  I guess I have been looking at these O3 pretty rigidly and wasn't open to the thought of just calling or stopping by on a regular basis, worrying that this was a little to "catch as catch can".  But I'm getting a lot of feedback on being "stuctured" and "formal", so I'm processing that as I plan these meetings.

ken_wills's picture

Ash makes a great case, as usual.

I especially admire her approach that focuses on the value TO THE DIRECT REPORT ("What can I do to help you meet your goals? What's going on that I should know about? Are you experiencing any push-back that I could help get resolved?" ).  That's excellent, Ash.

There's something to be said though, for organizational power.  TBerge, you ARE this person's boss - and you DO have the right to expect (within reason) a direct report to make accommodation to your approach to managing.  My advice is that you don't get in the habit avoiding using your power.  You'll build up an expectation on the part of your directs that they can simply push you around.

jhack's picture

O'3s are not casual, off-the-cuff, "hey how ya doin" events. 

They are scheduled.  They have an agenda.  They have a genuine business purpose.  

If your direct is resistant, you must insist.  Put it in the calendar.  Tell him it's not optional.  If he shows up, you hold the meeting.  If he does not show up, you have to hold firm.

See this thread for more discussion: 

John Hack

430jan's picture

I think that this is way more about push-back to your new role. If you don't have O3s he doesn't have to develop a relationship with you and can keep thinking your supervisor is his boss.

I think Ash has great ideas about the questions to ask, and the payoff that persistence will bring. But, bottom line, this direct is wasting your time through stall tactics and also expecting you to change your schedule around to accommodate their deadline. Don't you have deadlines too? That are costing the company more money that the direct's deadlines? That doesn't sound like superstar behavior. Also, could it be he thinks he should have your job? Not sure how the hiring went. That may factor in.

I'm sure others have ideas on feedback too. I would keep it unemotional, but I would surely let him know that he missed an important meeting. It's not all about him.

p.s. I'm just mean enough that I would go to once a week. If he is so darned busy then there is a lot you need to know about his superstar performance.


jhack's picture

"p.s. I'm just mean enough that I would go to once a week. If he is so darned busy then there is a lot you need to know about his superstar performance."


Janet, that is a bullseye.  


John Hack

tberge's picture

First of all, thank you for the great comments and for the support.  This is a great community and I really appreciate the wonderful ideas.

Had a chat with my boss about this since he has a relationship with her and I wouldn't be surprised if he complained directly to her about my forcing him to meet with me.

She indicated that "formal meetings" like this are not common in our company (I was hired just 6 months ago) and that my direct is not used to this style.  She suggested I pop in more frequently, invite him to lunch, etc.  She didn't go so far as to tell me to stop the O3, but didn't seem to support them either.  She admitted that her approach is not as effective but stated that it was company culture.

I agree that there is a place for relationship building lunches, coffees, drop-ins, but I don't think they take the place of O3.

So, I guess I'm curious about the comment to go weekly and if that would simply make the relationship even worse while also risking losing what little support I do have from my boss given her feedback. 

jhbchina's picture

Sorry to hear the news your boss thinks O3's are too formal. Did you address doing O3's in the interview before you were hired.

Next interview I go on I will definitely ask or mention that I will do O3's and will that work in the company culture?

Fire a shot across the bow, give the DR some slack on the rope, keep doing O3's with the others, coach them, delegate to them, and then this DR will wonder how come he's on the outside looking in. Then you can say, " You choose not to attend O3's!"

Am I too hard here?

JHB  "00"

jrumple's picture

As I read through this thread, I keep coming back to the purpose of the O3: More Effective Relationships.

It sounds as though the relationship between you and the direct is strained and circumstances like their relationship with your boss are getting in the way. Some of the early casts about O3s talk about building Relationship Power. Everything else in the Trinity relies on you having established a relationship with your directs.

There are some company culture issues here as well. That means it is more important to have O3s now and not put them off. Your direct needs to realize that your O3s are not like the O3s they have had in the past. They aren't about you flowing down information. They aren't about you making assignments. They are a chance for you to learn from the direct what is going on from their perspective. It is your chance to learn what is important to the direct so you can be ready to support these things. I really like Janet's comment above that if your direct is as busy as they claim, then the O3s are more important, not less.

When your boss mentioned that formal meetings are not common in the company, it reminded me that a few times Mark has talked about wanting the group right next to them. When you're having effective O3s, effective feedback, effective coaching, and effective delegation, the rest of the company is going to start noticing it. More and more of the company will want to come work for you. In time this becomes a company that has formal O3s.

It does sound like there are some opportunities for feedback and shot across the bow feedback. I wonder if they will have the desired effect if you don't already have the relationship with the direct established.

San Diego

ashdenver's picture

A "formally scheduled meeting" doesn't have to be painstakingly "formal" in practice.  "Hey, I'm sorry, it's not your turn yet. I still have 8 minutes to go before we turn things over to you."  

If all you can accomplish in the first half-dozen scheduled O3s is the ten minutes for him to talk (How was your weekend, anything exciting planned for the coming weekend, got a lot of vacation time to use up before the end of the year, etc.) so be it. Some might suggest that those ten minutes would be better spent focusing on your ten minutes (don't forget to get that training done, I'll need your status report by 5pm Thursday, Sally's out this week & you're covering for her, you'll need to sign-off on that project plan today, etc.) but my theory - right, wrong, or indifferent - is that it's probably better spent getting him to relax into the scheduled calls/meetings first and foremost.  If those scheduled meetings are all about you hitting him with your stuff and he eeks out with "yeah, great weekend, gotta go now" how will the trust relationship ever be built?  Those O3s will forever be associated with the belief that "these meetings are just a chance for the boss to dump on me once a week!"  Who on earth would want to go to something like that week after week?!

I was the Lone Wolf in my organization with the MT O3 model.  To this day, O3s that are done by every other manager are bi-weekly one-hour sessions in which it's one of those "here's all my stuff to dump on you, DR, that's been accumulated over the last two weeks and while we're here, I'm going to nitpick your workload management."  Very thrilling from the DR perspective, let me tell you.

It's okay to buck company culture once in a while.  It's okay to try to set the precedent.  It's okay to try new things.  It's okay to bond the team together in the MT O3 style.  (That is to say: if your team is the only group doing the O3's MT-style, the whole group (as individuals) are bonded together in that common experience. That makes your group special & unique. Leverage that.)

DiSC profile: 7-2-1-5