How Many People Should You Manage?

One question I get asked a lot is, how many people should I manage? Or, what is the correct span of control for a good manager?

The answer is surprisingly simple. We know that the best managers check in with each of their team members once a week, for about fifteen minutes, to discuss their near-term future work. They ask two questions: What are you working on, and how can I help? These weekly, one-one-one meetings increase the team’s performance, engagement, and retention. It’s that simple. Weekly, one-on-one meetings about near-term future work increase performance, engagement, and retention. It's that simple. Click To Tweet

But they have to be individual, and they have to be weekly. Meeting with each employee every month (or God forbid, every quarter) and engagement actually goes down. Meet in a weekly “group huddle” with your entire team, and you won’t move the needle on performance.

That means that your perfect span of control, as a manager, solely depends on how many employees you can meet with for this weekly check-in. Maybe that’s ten people; maybe it’s two. But if you are too busy “leading” to do this one weekly ritual with each team member, then you’re really not leading at all.Your perfect span of control is the number of people you can check in with each week. Click To Tweet

6 Comments

  1. Deb January 23, 2019 at 11:55 AM - Reply

    unfortunately, senior leaders listen to consultants, NOT actual managers/supervisors of people when it comes to span of control… This makes it VERY difficult to actually make what you say a reality. Yes. GREAT leaders of people check in each week with their directs, 1on1…but then there is the cost side of span of control that is almost always different where the boots are on the ground to where the C-suite sits….

  2. JSL February 19, 2019 at 7:37 AM - Reply

    Deb, you say, “unfortunately, senior leaders listen to consultants, NOT actual managers/supervisors …”
    Wondering who’s at fault here?

  3. Sara April 24, 2019 at 7:20 PM - Reply

    Is there a study/data you can point to that shows engagement goes down with monthly check-ins? I am having a hard time defending and getting buy-in for this idea that seems like it should be a no-brainer.

  4. Devon January 14, 2020 at 7:42 AM - Reply

    It seems that if managers don’t have enough time to check in once a week with their directs then they may have too many directs OR they have their priorities mixed up. For instance attending another status meeting does no good if your directs lack coaching

  5. Val Kireitchik February 21, 2020 at 9:20 PM - Reply

    I wonder if 15 min is enough. My practice show it is sometimes hard to pack it into 30 minutes.

  6. JoAnna March 22, 2020 at 7:21 AM - Reply

    It is Span of CARE and give them authentic attention…most of us don’t control others. 🙂

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