By: Rhett Knoll – Rhett has written for Esquire, Salesforce.com, PGATour.com, Inc.com, and The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

WideAngle is rolling the dice in a major way by doubling down on the belief that 1:1’s are not only the best place to exchange data but also the most optimal starting point to share the company’s most valuable information to a wider audience.

WideAngle (formerly Rivalry) CEO Jon Birdsong describes the changing nature of 1:1’s: “WideAngle has had tremendous success ever since we evolved the business to software for your 1:1’s. But just like LinkedIn first set out to be a marketplace exchanging V-Cards, they evolved into their bigger vision of connecting professionals. We see a much wider market and bigger vision as well. It all starts with 1:1’s but moves into something much larger.”

1:1 meetings have various definitions to managers. WideAngle took a page from the well-established thought leader, Manager Tools, when defining a 1:1. A 1:1 meeting is a 30 minute (or more) regularly scheduled meeting between a manager and direct report that revolves around a structured agenda.

Birdsong states: “1:1’s are the most powerful management tool. Retention and results are the largest 2 priorities of great managers. The main problem with 1:1’s is it’s always the first meeting to get shoved off the calendar when fires come up, and when aren’t fires coming up? So then the question becomes, how do 1:1’s bring more value to the individual, the team, and ultimately the company.”

The Age of Too Much Information

A recent Harvard Business Review article titled: Is Technology Really Helping Us Get More Done? uncovers the downside of Metcalfe’s Law. Productivity in the workplace achieved significant strides in the mid 90’s. Email and the internet helped. Yet, according to HBR, since 2007, productivity growth hasn’t even kept up with inflation.

The problem? Too much communication. HBR continues that the downside of Metcalfe’s law is as the cost of communication decreases, the number of interactions increases exponentially, as does the time to process them.

Conversations

Arguably products like Slack, Yammer, and Hipchat have alleviated the “too many meetings” or “too many emails problem” to a degree.

Birdsong continues: “Yet, nobody wants to be the Slack-hole who clutters up a channel. If you’re the loudest guy on the team, it only exaggerates that person’s voice. Slack, Yammer, and other really functional and fancy bulletin boards are fantastic for decreasing email exchanges. There is obviously a huge place for them in the market. We use one of them daily and love it. Is it cutting to a core business problems? To a degree, but our attention is not best allocated when just chatting and throwing things into Yammer or Slack.”

Why not?

Lack of Intentionality

Many argue the lack of the 4th “I” of organizational conversation is the main reason. Boris Groysberg and Michael Slind published a paper in Harvard Business Review titled: Leadership is a Conversation. Their analysis concludes that conversations are happening in your organization and great leadership can mold it, influence it, and shape it around the objectives and goals of the company. To perform such a feat, these types of conversations need to have four “I.s:” Intimacy, Inclusion, Interactivity, Intentionality.

Organizational Conversation

“Slack, Yammer and others do an incredible job of the first 3, but a horrible of last, intentionality. There is no intentionality in a chat room. And, staring at a Yammer feed or Slack channel is not doing real work.” states Birdsong.

Enter 1:1’s

“1:1’s are the most intentional meeting any manager can have with a direct report. It’s the only meeting that is truly for the direct report where the purpose includes sharing ideas, venting complaints, documenting progress, and forming real bonds. People, especially the non-Slackholes and introverts will say some of the most wise, beautiful, and thoughtful insights in a 1:1 between them and their trusted manager. Listening is the real secret to maximizing everyone’s skills, energy, and talents in the right way,” says Birdsong.

WideAngle has nailed the work flow for 1:1’s. Since launching in June of 2015, managers at major Fortune 500 companies to the fastest growing startups use them for the 30 most important minutes of the week. Thousand of users log in each week and set the agenda for their 1:1 by filling out their brief, having valuable conversations, and following up on next steps.

“Good managers are already doing 1:1s,” says WideAngle CTO Tejus Parikh. “We make them more productive by improving a workflow that took valuable time and energy at the expense of the conversation.”

When asked about usage metrics, Parikh replied, “Thousands of 1:1’s occur each month in WideAngle. On average, each 1:1 spawns at least one follow up conversation. But the best piece of data is the emails we get from customers stating how much better their 1:1s are.”

For example, Frank Tumminia of rocketship healthcare company, QGenda was quoted as saying: “when I asked my team in each 1:1 via WideAngle: ‘which deal are you about to walk away from?’ One rep’s response didn’t pass the sniff test. Ultimately, we ended up closing the deal for a quarter of a million dollars and WideAngle’s ROI just paid for itself 100x. That is just one 1:1, one team member, and one week!”

Tummunia continued “1:1 help us prioritize where to spend our time coaching, in the example provided, deal coaching was priority that week. Many times we identify skills that need to be improved and prioritize that. The 1:1 drives so much between the manager-direct report relationship. WideAngle keeps the manager just as disciplined as it does the direct reports in having and documenting these crucial conversations.”

QGenda ended up 150% of company projections in Q1.

Parikh added: “we’ve definitely solved a problem to a real need, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a lot of hard numbers around engagement, but what really matters are the conversations; the ideas, suggestions, candor, struggles, and wins. There’s a story behind every team member. We are building our product to help managers uncover these stories and connect the dots.”

Sharing

Famed and prolific venture capitalist at Redpoint Ventures Tomasz Tungz recently wrote:

“In a company, innovating at the intersection often means sharing observations and data to support hypothesis. Like human knowledge, data within organizations seems to be splintering geometrically, with new databases and new data sources sprouting all over the organization. Each data set a new source of insight, like an individual PhD working on a niche. Innovating at the intersection within businesses means sharing data.”

1:1’s are the backbone of real time data and the fuel to innovation. This data is different than 010101. The data WideAngle shares has emotion, intuition, heart, and instinct.

Parikh stated: “Data is everywhere now, but it is often unusable. For example, what is the one product feature that will truly drive revenue? Sales talks to customers and each member has a piece of the puzzle. With WideAngle, sales can share each of those pieces to product, vetted by a manager, with no additional meetings required. And finally product will have all the insight to build the killer feature. Exponential advancement begins with connecting dots that could not have been connected before.”

Birdsong added: “also, when a manager and direct report sit down for their 1:1, a degree of trust opens up the dialogue between them that would never exist on a bulletin board or Slack channel. It’s almost as if we created a whole new market of content in the enterprise and it’s the responsibility of the frontline manager to show discretion and tact on when and whom to share it.”

WideAngle’s latest product evolution is a stellar innovation around team feedback while helping pierce through corporate bureaucracy. The biggest question remains yet to be answered: will the communication avenue be too much for the market or just the right amount? Only time will tell, but one truth is for sure as Birdsong aptly put it: “The bar for emotional intelligence is now even higher.”

Rhett Knoll has written for Esquire, Salesforce.com, PGATour.com, Inc.com, and The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Photo cred: @alyintheatl

 

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