LifeLabs manager training notes to self

Week #1: Coaching Skills

Questions + Playbacks + Split-tracks

  • Ask more questions!
  • Ask more open questions!
  • Question of the week for me: “What are the options?”
  • Playbacks
    • “I heard you say ____. . .”
  • Split-tracks
    • “I hear you saying a few things, which one should we start with?”
    • Empower your partner to decide – there’s a reason we hired you and I want you to help me unravel this
  • Open vs. closed questions
    • Closed – do, are, is, have, can, would
    • Open – what, how, when, who, which, (why)
      • “Why” questions can be okay, but tone is important

SOON Funnel

  1. Playbacks + Split-tracks – clarify scope of conversation.
  2. Success – what does success look like (in the pre-agreed-upon scope)?
  3. Obstacles – what are the obstacles?
  4. Options – what are the options?
  5. Next steps – what are the next steps?

Playbacks + split-tracks are great throughout☝🏼

Week #1 Practice

  • Q-step: ask one more step than usual
  • Utilize playbacks and split-tracks

Week #2: (missed)

Week #3: Productivity & Prioritization

Top 4 challenges

  1. Chronemics: time awareness
  2. Prioritization: knowing what adds greatest value
  3. Organization: having a process for tasks
  4. Focus: working without disruptions


  • Model time integrity – start and end meetings on time (signal-setting)
  • Clean up blur words – quick question, two seconds, sometime next week, ASAP
  • Use time language
    • in our last 10 minutes. . .
    • should we extend by 15?
    • estimation skills: What’s your estimate? Did your estimate pan out?
  • Time audit – track 15-minute chunks of day (note planned vs unplanned time)


MIT (Most Important Thing) Method

    • 1-3 top things
    • Criteria are often implicit
    • Explicit criteria helps
  • Quadrant method

    Ask. . .

    • Is this really the MIT right now?
    • Can I streamline it going forward?
    • Am I the best person to do this?
    • Calendar block
      • Know your availability/energy patterns
      • Over-calendar-block! Block extra time
      • Help your team calendar block if that would be supportive
        • How can I support you in calendar blocking more effectively?
    • Recharge
      • Model recharge: set your status icon so it’s explicit

Bucket method

Bucket 1


Build foundational caps (nav, bedrock)

– Spec nav
– Bedrock meeting


Bucket 2


Norm —> perform growing team


Bucket 3


Grow personal management skills

– 1:1’s
– Staff meeting


The other bucket 
  • What’s this quarter about?
  • What % of time is going to each bucket currently?
  • Activity: go through current calendar and see what the natural buckets are and how much time is going to each


Open loops

  • Beware of the Zeigarnik Effect
    • Open loops create “psychic residue”
    • They take up valuable brain real estate
  • Consistent Capture System (CCS)
    • To-do list
    • Calendaring
    • Notes


If-then cues

  • If I open my laptop, then I pick my MITs
  • If it’s 12pm, then I will answer emails for 30 minutes
  • If someone on the team has headphones on, then we’ll email our questions
  • IfI am designing new content, then I will listen to the “focus” Spotify playlist
  • Personal: If I want to ignore Slack for 20 minutes, then I will put on my Spotify playlist

Pomodoro technique

  • 30 minute chunk to concretize time-boxing
    • 25 minutes on
    • 5 minutes off
    • Interrupted? Start over!
    • Helpful for vague tasks

Week #4: Effective 1:1’s

Common challenges

  • Postponed/cancelled
  • Nothing to say
  • Focus is only on project updates

1:1’s are sacred management time

  • Coach
  • Give + get feedback
  • Prioritize + align
  • 1:1’s are your most important management tool

Understand engagement

5 Brain cravings


  • Certainty
  • Autonomy
  • Meaning
  • Progress
  • Social Inclusion

1. Progress

  • Start 1:1’s with small wins
  • Task-boxing
  • Milestone development
    • Regular specific feedback
    • Individual development plan (see below)
      • Something you want to improve. . .
      • Who do you know who does this very well?
        • What do they do specifically?
      • What is your current level on this?
        • What’s one small step you can take to move up 1 point?

2. Meaning

  • Use impact statements
    • “This matters because. . .”
    • “I’m bringing it up because. . .”
  • Use 1:1 time to connect day-to-day back to higher meaning
  • Next steps:
    • Connect meaning in 1:1’s

3. Autonomy

  • Give more choice or more direction
  • What are you the CEO of?
    • Each person can/should have some domains of ownership
    • “I would love for you to feel like you get to own parts of our team process/progress. Any particular areas/domains that come to mind?”
    • Ideas: own an HBML
  • Next steps:
    • Have autonomy conversation
    • Find/give ownership

4. Social Inclusion

  • Small talk matters
    • What can you ask about them and share about self?
  • Build networks
    • Who do they go to for support? Who would they like more contact with?
  • Team dynamics
    • Who stays quiet, doesn’t get responses,
  • Next steps:
    • Be sure to ask about folks’ lives outside of work
    • COVID-19 – check in on extroverts on how isolation is impacting them

5. Certainty

  • Hacks
    • Create routines and rituals (e.g. gong to start meeting, weekly missions)
    • Consistent 1:1’s
    • Take notes and follow up
    • Set clear expectations (clearly define success)
  • Next steps:

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