Keep On Track with a Daily 5-Minute Check-In with Your Boss

Five minutes a day is enough to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. 

Stever Robbins
4-minute read
Episode #359

Keeping aligned is an absolute requirement for getting amazing results. I remember my first management job. It was hell. There I was, surrounded by employees looking to me for direction, even though I didn't have a clue what I was doing. Fire and brimstone everywhere, and nothing but a barbed whip and a pool of boiling lava to keep them on the straight and narrow. It was just hell.

Fortunately, after a while, you learn. It turns out that a big piece of a manager's job isn't flogging employees with a barbed whip. Indeed, it's simply giving employees the direction they need without using a barbed whip or lowering them into boiling lava. In companies larger than a few people, there's enough work to be done, and the work is so specialized that it's easy for people to get out of sync. If Europa is handling the construction of the holding pens for the carnivorous Audrey II plants, and Melvin is handling the transportation of the plants, they each know only the details of their own project. If Melvin arranges for the Audrey IIs to arrive a week before the restraining barriers are in place, things could get messy. Something needs to keep Melvin and Europa in sync.

That's where bosses come in. Even though we're taught to think of a boss as someone who gives orders, most bosses are pretty bad at being good at giving orders. The place a boss can really add value is in coordinating, and making sure everyone is doing what they need to do at the right time, so the company moves forward like a well-oiled machine. So now, instead of everyone coordinating with everyone, they only need to coordinate with the boss. It's the boss who coordinates between people.>

Use a Daily Check-In

Whether you're a boss who wants to coordinate with your people, a person who wants to coordinate with your boss, or both, you can use a brief, 5-minute daily check-in. It helps you keep in sync about what you're doing and how it's going. I'll describe the check-in as if you're communicating with your boss, but it could easily go the other way around.

First, create a deliverables list. I prefer to do it in a notebook or on a whiteboard. You want it somewhere you can see and review it. List everything you're currently working on and expected to deliver. Number each item, and never reuse a number. For each item list when it's due and who's expecting it. During your five-minute check-in, run down the list quickly with your boss and give the status of each item.

Europa's list might include:

#89. Construct holding pens. Due for Melvin by May 23. Status: on-track.

The status can be on track, done, or late. Done items are great! They're an excuse to celebrate, put on paper hats, do cartwheels, and sprinkle glitter all around the office! After all, people love glitter!

If an item is on track, there's nothing to discuss. But if an item changes from on track to late, you can immediately arrange to work with your boss to figure out how it can be made right again.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.