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.
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.