The Five Minutes Talk
It’s a random Tuesday morning after the team’s standup, and Josh just nodded and asked if you had five minutes to talk.
You know that look because you’ve been there a few times before so you take your notebook and a pen. It’s going to be more than five minutes. Best case scenario, half an hour. Worst case… who knows.
For a few seconds, you are thinking about the new OKRs, the ad hoc report someone asked for, the next big thing and other initiatives you promised to drive or help this week. You think you have a lot on your plate, and for some reason, you are feeling a bit grumpy today because something is off at home. You are only human, after all. But everyone is busy, so you decide to shove these thoughts into a mental room and close the door for a bit.
Josh seems a bit stressed out. You can notice that from his body language. He may even have imagined how this could go. How the conversation would start, progress and probably some possible outcomes. It seems like he really needs to get something out of his chest.
While walking to the room, you try to think about Josh and his behaviour over the last few days. Was he a bit too quiet? Did he participate less than usual in decision-making? When was the last time he was on a vent? Did you do anything to resolve the situation? When was the last time you gave feedback to him?
You sit down and stop thinking about the reasons he asked you to discuss. It’s time to listen.
You know how this starts, and you are prepared for it. Usually with an awkward “Look… I wanted to talk to you about…”.
Josh could be giving his resignation notice, asking for a raise, discussing something regarding the team or sharing something personal that doesn’t have to do with work.
Good or bad, it doesn’t really matter. The key here is to actively listen and not lose focus with other things in the back of your mind or solutions. This is Josh’s time.
You listen carefully. You Gather all the information you need to assess the situation and remove assumptions. You repeat. Then you act if it’s necessary.
This is not about how to act in these situations. This is about something else.
The truth is that Josh knows that you are busy. But he also appreciates you getting out of your way to listen and help him regardless of your daily schedule. It probably wasn’t a big deal the first time you did it, but now he knows you can make time for him, and the most important thing is that he knows he can depend on you. You will be there for him and the team no matter what.
These interactions might look like distractions from focus, but trust me, they are not. This is a crucial part of the job.
Everyone Is Busy, but a Leader Should Never Look Busy
Leadership is not only about big gestures and fireworks. It’s about consistency. Doing the things needed daily, so your team has the things they need to thrive. Often this means getting out of your carefully scheduled day to support them.
I’m not going to lie. This isn’t easy. It’s messy, unpredictable and you need to make sense of all the noise and, on top of it, make it look easy. People are not going to stay with you forever in the company. That’s a fact. But interactions like these could sometimes determine someone’s future in the company and show the kind of leader you are.
The five minutes talk is a lie. In reality, it’s a well-disguised opportunity for meaningful conversations and trust-building.