1. This is your time to talk about whatever is on your mind. If you want to talk about the footy over the weekend, that's fine. If you want to talk about work or issues at home or career progression, that's fine.
2. Sometimes there is not much to talk about - and that's fine too. If they do not have much to say on a particular day and I don't have much to say, it's a short meeting.
3. As said previously, try never to reschedule and never, never forget.
4. It's a really good time as a manager to practice listening. For that reason, I never have an agenda (i.e. things I want to say) at these meetings. Also, I try to contain the impulse to give advice unless they specifically ask for it.
5. I make it quite clear that as far as legally possible, I will maintain confidentiality. The only time that something may be relayed upward is if there is requirement for me to do so (e.g. an employee reporting harassment).
One thing I make sure we don't talk about is status reports. A lot of people have been trained to do that in a 1:1 and I think that's a waste of time. As a manager it's my job to know what's going on; if I don't I should adjust systems so that I do. So that everybody does.
But the things I really want to dig in on are deeper issues. It's my job to make sure my people are happy at the company and are growing in their careers. So if they don't bring it up on their own I'll ask questions about emotional state and emotional reactions to situations. E.g., "How did you feel about that?" "Are you feeling sufficiently challenged?" "What have you learned this week?"
I also think it's valuable to have a list of ongoing themes and to keep returning to them. Otherwise it's easy for an issue to drop into the background. E.g., somebody has an issue with a coworker, or is feeling bored, or thinks we have too many meetings, or thinks we don't take tech debt seriously enough. People mentioning that even once is a gift: I can't fix systemic problems if I don't know about them. And even if the system is fine, I don't want my people just putting up with their jobs. I want them happy.
So it is definitely their time. But I'm also the person with more experience both in the industry and specifically doing 1:1 meetings. I'm also the person with more power to fix many problems. So if they have anything they want to talk about, I'll honor that for sure. But if they don't, I think it's my job to ask good questions.
This! All too often management thinks the "Tell me what's on your mind" covers them with the ol' "Well I asked and they didn't say anything" excuse. It absolutely does not.
As a newer hire on my team, sure I feel able to discuss deeper things with my manager. But for better or worse, that doesn't mean I always will. It's leadership's job to get the ball running with these types of deeper questions, rather than just asking "Tell me what's on your mind". Just asking for someone to tell you whatever is on your mind is much too ambiguous and needs to be narrowed in scope.
I can barely turn off my thoughts when I'm meditating, how can you give your undivided attention without any internal distractions? What do you do when the conversation feels boring or tedious?
Do some digging around and read up on "Active Listening". The bare bones of it are just to hear what the person is saying, and reflect it back. "It sounds like you're frustrated because <paraphrase>." If you're attempting to accurately paraphrase, it will take quite some concentration on what someone is saying. The devil is in the details, and so is a lot of subtleties.
It might be worth seeing a counsellor, they're trained in, and can help you to develop, these kinds of skills.
Try to count to 3 in your mind before saying something.
I would also invest in hobbies where there is a lot of thinking and less action.
- Anything where you need to wait/think before acting
- Quick quiz apps
- Anything that require you to act quickly
If you’re taking notes it helps if you communicate what you’re doing with them, and what exactly you wrote down. I have adjusted my 1-1 conversation to avoid anything that might be considered a commitment or otherwise official. So that I speak very vaguely now. And often avoid issues that are related to my current role or work. In the past not doing so has bit me. Even though I’ve been told the 1-1 time is not about status updates.
If the server's on fire and you have a fire extinguisher, use it. Times are rarely so urgent, and in such an occasion you need to debrief and get input anyway.
1. Try to meet with every one of you direct reports consistently.
2. I believe you should have less than 8 direct reports. The number is not important. Its that you have the time to meet with each one on a consistent basis.
3. If you have a large team then you need to delegate managerial duties. Work with HR if you can't do it directly. At least set up team leads.
1. Created a Google Doc for the direct to enter an agenda ahead of time. They were not required to fill it out. Many did anyway. It helped me prepare to listen, knowing the topics.
2. Scheduled time in a meeting room. I know lots of people like to do the walking 1-on-1s. I don't. I think it's hard to have face-to-face communication when you're standing next to each other, and it's nigh impossible to take any kind of notes. That said, if my direct said: "can we just go for a walk?", I released the meeting room and we went for a walk.
3. Blocked my calendar for 15-30 minutes on either side of the meetings. This ensured I had time to move from one meeting to the next and allowed for a bit of spillover time if necessary (say the previous meeting room occupants were slow in vacating, a common occurrence).
1. Have a 1x1 once a week with each direct for 30 min
2. If you can have your 1x1 walking (go for coffee, head outside) try and do that; conversation flows easier when it's not in a confined space like a meeting room.
3. Loosely allocate the meeting in 1/2: 15 min for them to talk about whatever they want. 15 min for you to talk about what you need to talk about (usually top->down information), and at least leave a few min at the end for career development or tactics.
4. Throw out rule #3 if they want to talk more than 15 min. Always cut your portion down to accommodate them. The point of the meeting is to build trust. Building trust means listening to your directs and getting to know them and what makes them tick. You'll always learn more by listening than instructing.
And that's basically it, that will get you a long way for now!
I had a manager once that stomped his way around a mall. Spent the whole time keeping up with him (taller) while avoiding colleagues also getting coffee. Didn't feel I could focus on what I wanted to say while walking and felt rushed. Wasn't even convinced he was focused on our activity either. Not very good and not very productive for me (manager was fine, he'd got his coffee).
My last office had 30 people under one manager, and my current have 15.
I don't see how weekly 30 minutes 1-1's are feasible.
I agree with that, I have no idea how I'd keep the interests and issues and projects and goals and whatnot of 15 people in my head, let alone 30.
Completely agree with you. There is always an implicit agenda -- maximize the amount of work they can get out of me for as little money as possible. If I were a consultant, would I sit down for a weekly chat with a client in the same sort of 1-on-1 format? No way. The reason we are asked to have these meetings is so that management can gain useful information from us to then use as they see fit. That's it. We should approach these meetings accordingly.
Employment, like any other business transaction, should not be a zero sum game.
Sure, both sides are in it to gain. But your manager's job is to make the most of your time and help you be as productive as you can. That should align with your goals - the more productive you are, the more valuable you are to the company.
For example, we have staff that do A, B and C currently. As we grow, we know we want to add in D. So I’d usually rather have existing staff grow into D if they want to and hire someone to fill in the previous roles of the existing staff (since as they add D they can’t still do all of A, B and C if they’re also doing D).
Obviously this only works when your existing staff can grow personally at a similar rate to the company’s needs. But when possible, we try to make that happen.
For reference a short tenure for technical staff at my company is 5 years. I take that personally as a compliment.
My experience, in my own case at least, is that I’ve been able to grow faster than my company and team in terms of skills and skill sets. That doesn’t mean my boss is gonna adjust our tech stack and it doesn’t mean there is going to be a new role available. I’m not going anywhere unless he does. And he isn’t. So, I’m stuck under him. And so, no, I’m not going to go into our meetings and explain why he needs to grow so that he can facilitate my growth. That is career suicide.
All that is semi besides the point. The fact is, a manager is an agent of the company, and at the end of the day the company is profit and product driven, and those will never perfectly align with my goals. Managers do ask, often and explicitly, for an asymmetry of information from me under the rationale of retaining talent or personal growth, but at the end of the day it is another tool in their toolbox to manage. Manage resources. End of the day, I’m a resource that is being managed. That’s the reality.
What worked for me (through experimentation and error) is I try hard to get folks to not talk about project status in the 1/1 (we have standups and planning for that). It is after all their time and unless I have direct feedback on behaviours I prefer to make it all about them. Their problems, Their goals, their dreams, their ambitions, interests and so on. After all if they are not most inspired being in my team I want to make sure I can find them work/projects/teams that they would be more aligned with (and knit that around timeframes).
At first the things that would not go well would be running out things to say. Either due to shyness or introversion or general fear of a new manager. The other side was me accepting it and moving on. While deciding when to dive deep and when not to is subtle, often zooming out on their future and then coming back to skillset often kicks off a good discussion (and some fine action items for both of us).
Talk about the frequency of your 1:1 which seem to happen too often, and about all the other disruptions you experience. Your manager will surely find a way to help with these if possible.
On the other hand though, I do think it lowers the barrier if you actually do have something to say - since you know the meeting's happening anyway and isn't something you have to request or say Yes actually I do have something to say today.
I treat these meetings as untouchable because I want my direct reports to know that I value them. I don't want to reschedule and make them feel like I don't care, so I will never reschedule them.
We don't discuss their weekly work or tasks, we discuss their careers, their career path, how they can get to the next level, any problems they are encountering, etc. I dedicate this time to them and their career and their time at the company.
*maybe I am being a bit harsh, they do provide some value in that they would be trying to guide me and provide feedback about how I can make it to the next level, but usually that is spelled out in a eng career ladder, and you would know what skills you need to work on from peer feedback, not your EM since your EM does not work with you everyday nor review your code.
1) You have worked with bad managers
2) You don't appreciate what a manager has to deal with. I have often felt that one of my roles as a manager is to protect the team from the board. The board waste a lot of my time while the team get to keep working. Equally the board prefer to deal with me because I have learned how to put things in their terms.
Maybe you should use your one on one to ask what they have been doing recently.
I have a good friend who is a senior engineer who is always complaining about managers, but hates dealing with other stakeholders in the business. Maybe you are under-appreciating them because you don't like what they have to do.
In terms of career progression, yes a manager can't do that for you. However a manager can recognise that you are driven and allocate work that gives you the experience they want.
I spend a lot of time doing PR for my team. The board don't really understand what they do and it is hard for them to tell who is good and who is not. I'm currently moving out of a position, and my best direct report is replacing me (in a reorganised role, doing more tech and less management). They got the job because of my advocacy, and because I allocated them work that would prepare them for the role over the past couple of years. They have been nervously learning the ropes whilst constantly commenting that, 'I remember this!'.
But then all of your conversations are about operational matters.
When can you talk about careers? When should I talk to my employees about the 'boiling a frog' stuff? A steady increase in workload, the new x is causing anxiety with y. Or even that person x is concerned about person y's welfare. All huddled in our open plan office, it is hard to have those conversations. The 1 to 1 allows that.
Blaming the employee when the manager is responsible.
My manager blocks off 2 hours per week. If you have something to talk about, put a meeting on his calendar. The only obligation is the semi annual 1:1.
I talk to my manager on a daily basis so any 1:1 is really for career path, no project status, gripes about people, etc.
Every morning I take a couple of minutes to talk to him, make sure he knows where he's going and that he has the tools (technological and social) to get there.
About once a week, we have a wrap-up meeting to cover what we've accomplished, what's blocking us, and where we're going. This usually doesn't take more than 10 minutes and we'll skip it by mutual agreement if we both feel we're up to date and don't have anything in particular to talk about.
About once a month or so we have a 30-60 minute session over tea or coffee to just discuss communication at work, strategies, his morale, and how he feels he's doing in terms of happiness and making progress toward his personal goals.
Sometimes special situations come up through the course of work and we'll have impromptu sessions to talk about them as necessary.
Completely off topic, but I am looking for a job in Japan - I will be moving there tomorrow actually for family reason. Could I have your details (or could you send me an email - my email is in my HN profile.) I am a senior data scientist. Thanks in advance
The first half is for whatever they want to talk about (work status, planning, career guidance, personal stuff, anything they want). The second half is for my list: usually tactical work stuff, but I step back and ask about their overall feelings and professional goals about once per month.
It’s a useful tool for coordinating work, and it has the nice side effect of redicing interruptions because most things can wait a few days until our 1:1. But the primary reason I do them so often is to build stronger relationships. I know my people very well, and they know me. Spending so much time together builds a lot of trust, which is extremely valuable.
I like to have them every 2 weeks with a new hire, and every month thereafter. Sometimes, if something comes up midweek that feels like it needs to be addressed, I'll schedule one before that.
Location: take a walk or go to a non-work but private space
Ask questions about their general feelings:
- How are you doing?
- How are things in the office? With co-workers?
- Are you enjoying your work? What could make it better?
Ask them for feedback:
- Is there anything that's been on your mind? Any issues either with me or other staff?
- Is there something that we could be doing better in their eyes? What would they change?
Do they have a career goal they are progressing towards?
- What position would you like to be in 1-2 years?
- What can I do to help you get there?
- How do you feel your recent projects have helped in that regard?
Only after I exhaust them and their feelings will I bring up feedback I have for them -- again, with exceptions, if the 1-on-1 was called to handle a specific issue, that will be addressed pretty fast.
In the last 5 years, I've seen the minimum time in Silicon Valley to stay at a job drop precipitously from 2 years (the norm that I'm used to going back 20 years) down to 1 year. I see a lot of jumping around, especially at the more junior end of the spectrum, where total comp can jump by 30-50k in the first 3-5 years of experience.
And young people know this, because everyone shares their salaries and total comp openly. This is a big change from my generation. So they're aggressively leaving after the first year, moving a couple of times and earning a lot more than they would have if they simply stayed at their job for 2-4 years.
One thing young people want is to be mentored aggressively, and for them to get their careers on track immediately. I try to cater to this by meeting with them once a week, to show them that I actually do care about their career path, and also selfishly, in hopes that they don't want to leave within a year and I'm left trying to fill another headcount. If I left the 1:1 to once a month, then I would only see them less than half a dozen times before they've decided they're going to leave.
But if they know that I'm working with them to further their experience, that they're not stuck in a rut and if they stay with me, that they can trust me and they won't get screwed doing all the boring grunt work, then I have a hope they will stay 2+ years with me before they leave.
I am not, and although I have hopped a few jobs recently (not due to chasing salary) and it has been 'forgiven' by the market, the usual is still >2yr where I am based.
- Before the meeting, review your notes from the last one and get into the mindset of listening.
- No formal agenda. Just notes of what both you don't want to forget to talk about during the one-on-one.
- A meeting should take around 30 minutes but allow for an extra 15 minutes if necessary.
- In the first half of the meeting, you should only listen. In the second half explore the mentioned topics and introduce topics of your own.
- Write notes throughout the meeting and conclude it with mutual commitments as next steps.
Shameless plug: Based on it i built note-taking web app as a side-project: https://www.oneonemeeting.com
Anything you say can and will be used against you.
He has two hours scheduled per week for a team of 15. He reserves those for 1:1. Anyone is free to put a 1:1 slot on his calendar if you have something to discuss. Otherwise you go about your week.
After doing engineering management for a decade and trying many ideas, I ended up with the following.
Have weekly 1 hour 1-1s if you have 5 direct reports or less.
Have weekly 30 minute 1-1s if you have between 5 and 10 direct reports.
If you have more than 10 direct reports, hopefully there is some plan. With 10 direct reports, many best practices do not apply.
My primary rule for 1-1s is not to waste time. I do not walk for 1-1s, because it is a waste of time. I do not cut 1-1s short when my direct reports have nothing to talk about, because it is a waste of time. I thoroughly prepare for 1-1s.
I have a shared document with every direct report where I write a summary of the 1-1s. My direct reports can add anything they want at any time (e.g. include topics they want to cover in the next 1-1 so that I can prepare ahead of time).
I start with a quick review of the previous 1-1 and close the loop on all outstanding topics from the previous 1-1.
Next, I give my direct reports an opportunity to raise any topics they want to discuss. I listen to what they have to say. I give answers when I have them. When I do not have answers I write down the question and try to find answers before the next 1-1.
Small-talk topics are fine and sometimes necessary. As my relationships with direct reports evolve, so do 1-1s. The more mature the relationship, the more efficient the 1-1. I don't expect to start at peak efficiency, but I'd like to see forward progress with every 1-1. The purpose of my 1-1 is to develop professional relationships with my direct reports (aka alignment), mentor my direct reports, learn and improve myself.
I try to leave enough time for myself to talk about my topics. I expect my direct reports to give me straight answers when they have them. When my direct reports do not have answers, I ask them to follow up with me in writing (my personal preference - I am more effective reading). Usually, for my topics I focus on communication, career development, culture and alignment.
Lastly, I recite the list of topics we covered.
In my first 1-1 with a new direct report I explain my take on 1-1 meeting structure and my expectations.
When I start out with a new manager, I prefer going for a walk around the neighborhood. Now that I have built trust and gotten a sense for how he thinks about management, I'm shifting to setting an agenda several days in advance so that he can think about what advice to give or questions to ask to help me clarify my thinking and debug my approaches to problems.
A check-in meeting is made up of three parts: (1) setting expectations, (2) providing feedback, (3) having a development conversation.
Status reports are explicitly not a part of this conversation. Those are easy to talk about, but have little value for your employee, and if you’re already doing daily stand-ups, they have little value for you too.
The first two topics are fairly self-explanatory, yet take time to learn to do well. The expectations must be clear, finite and actionable. Much has been written about the art and science of giving good feedback. I use a model where we talk about the Specific thing that happened, followed by Asking questions to understand their perspective, talking about the Impact of their actions on themselves and the people they have affected, and finally talking about what I expect them to Do now or in the future. (aka SAID)
The development conversation is the time for you to listen. This is where you learn about the professional skills they are working on growing (whether it’s public speaking, a particular career path or, say, a machine learning course, to name a few) and finding ways to help and facilitate those. If done right, you learn a lot about the person, their goals, aspirations, and will be in a better position to make a positive meaningful impact on their life.
The check-in is most effective if it’s guided by the employee. This encourages people to come with topics they care about and gives them the ability to focus more time on a particular aspect of the meeting which may be more important at that time.
My fiance has worked at a few bigger places that subscribe to this kind of "best-practices" management style, and it's just something that seems so stilted and generally dreaded. She's very happy when her job takes her on the road visiting customers and she gets to avoid them.
Also what would you think if the manager was late for the set block of 1-1s by 40 mins?
Scheduled every two weeks, but we're both quite busy, so we often let it slide unless one of us has something that we've been wanting to talk about, but we're both available at that time if either of us does. We're both easygoing with rescheduling or canceling.
First chunk is the "how's it going" bit to gauge general mood. Then a bit of feedback (he's been hearing good things about me, or maybe that I've been too quiet lately and need to communicate more, etc.) Then a prompt for me to talk about whatever. Finally, sometimes there might be a bit where I bring up scheduling vacation or he brings up a side task/project that he wants to ask me to work on.
I usually ask about big-picture and long-term stuff - where we're going as a company, how some big initiative that I haven't heard about recently is going, how it's going to affect our plans that we're behind schedule on some things after having had to re-prioritize others to the front, etc.
My former managers never did 1-on-1s, so I'm still not really sure what sorts of things I'm supposed to talk/ask about. I'm learning a bit from this thread. Maybe useful to use one of the meetings to hash that out - what do you want to get from it, what you want them to get from it, and vice-versa.
I've never had him as a manager, but I really wish I had.
However I make it a point to walk around and know almost everyone at some what personal level.
With my leaders I make a point to take them out for lunch once a week on my dime and thats my 1 on 1. For a skip level I take random person out for lunch once a week as well.
For across organizations that I aceess to, I also take their leaders out for lunch once a month or so. Or may just have a short convo as 1 on 1.
Doing one on one in formal setting does not create a personal bond.
Today I have a great relations with many of them.
I try not stop them if they want to give me project status to ensure I understand if there is some personal issue going from or with someone which they want to bring it up. Example is other leaders or architects or others are pushing back on anything.
Experience can probably tell you if they just want to give status update and then I would just stop them gently and say hey good job let’s talk about you.
The actual structure of the 1x1 varies on the personality and the state of my relationship with the report. Some engineers are good at talking about how they feel and how things are going, some need some prompting. Sometimes there can be a lot of really uncomfortable silence, which is hard to get used to.
I’ve found that the one real rule is to not let one side or another talk 100% of the time. Plenty of people will use constant chatter as a way to avoid talking about important matters at hand. Sometimes this takes the form of random banter and general ADD things (guilty), but some people will fill the time with a status report to avoid talking about how they’re unhappy with how things are going. If one party tries to run their mouth the entire time, chances are somethings up.
This includes if you, the manager, is the one doing all the talking.
We set the ground rules early on that we'd avoid the two extremes of the topic spectrum: project status updates and venting about issues that neither of us can take action on to address.
I'm given free reign to choose a topic and drive the meeting. Unless there's some pressing matter, I fallback to reviewing the work I did the past week and how I feel it helps (or doesn't) my career goals.
I try to give good examples of gaps I'd like to address so he can look for such opportunities in future projects, conferences, or in-house training.
My goal is that my manager will have a good understanding of the type of specific tasks I like to do and/or that will better help my future.
1) Somewhere between once a month and once a quarter seems about right frequency-wise. Once a week would be way overkill.
2) I want to come out of the meeting with a good sense of how I’m doing. Remember neither being fired nor being promoted (or getting a big bonus etc.) should come as a surprise. If it does, that’s a management failure.
3) This is also a good time to give me context on wider departmental priorities or changes that are in motion which I might not know about.
4) It’s probably a good idea (for your benefit, not mine) to use this opportunity to sound me out for any issues and figure out if I’m unhappy. Preferably in a subtle and comfortable way, but straight out asking probably works okay too.
My manager is very experienced and has great insight, and as an IC this time is very valuable to me. But agree weekly is a little overkill
I could see every two weeks working in other circumstances than the ones I happened to have found myself in. Maybe even weekly if I worked remotely or something like that.
Frequency was 45 minutes every two weeks, but I'm receptive to the idea this should be weekly or monthly, depending on your team structure. Always find the cadence that helps you accomplish the goals of your 1:1s as a manager (so be flexible!).
I always walked during my 1:1s. When I managed people remote, we'd talk on the phone while I'd walk around. I find I actively listen far better when I'm moving. Obviously this comes down to preference, and I always deferred my preferences to that of my report. If they wanted to sit in an office or do a video call, we would do that.
Content varied. I strongly discourage pure status updates, but I'm not dogmatic about not talking about day-to-day work during these meetings. Utilizing the context of WHAT they are doing to discuss HOW they can improve is very useful, so you can still leverage "status-update" style conversations towards the improvement of your report.
Genuinely try to build an understanding of the human being you're having a 1:1 with. What makes them tick? What are their passions? How do they like to work? Who do they like to work with? What makes them feel insecure? Beyond just connecting with them as a human being, all of this information can help you to anticipate their needs and be proactive, rather than reactive.
Don't allow the meetings to be cut short (this is a general rule of thumb I have for team meetings & 1:1s). By making it clear that we were ALWAYS going to use the 45 minutes, I found my colleagues always came more well prepared with their own topics. If you allow it to cut short, people who are more introverted, or find 1:1s challenging, may use silence as a way to cut it short.
If you're a manager looking to groom a first time manager, have them run 1:1s with their peers. Make it clear to their colleagues that this person is interested in becoming a manager, and is looking to practice this skill. It gives them some time to hone this skill in a low-risk situation, and I've found everyone to be willing to be a team-player with this sort of setup.
Most managers I know take notes. I think the general rule is, be an active listener. Do whatever you need to do to retain all the information you need to retain.
Honestly, there's way more to 1:1s than I could write in a single HN post. Lots of info all around in these comments. No one size fits all, so seek to find the size that works for you and your team!
One thing I haven't seen mentioned is having a kind of script or checklist for the direct report to be able to reflect and prepare for the meeting. E.g.,
- What have you accomplished since we spoke last?
- What are you learning?
- What are your biggest challenges? Is there anything you're avoiding? Anything demotivating?
- Is there anything you'd like feedback on?
It's NOT a script for the meeting. It's just to prepare.
Sometimes it's worth not having a one-on-one and that's fine, but when you don't come with anything to talk about and you end up shooting the breeze, it can sometimes feel like a waste of time.
>If you don't know the names of your directs' (or manager's) spouse and kids then your relationship isn't good enough to trust the other with priorities at crunch time.
That's a bit far. You can have a great professional relationship with another person where there's both skill growth and career development without getting into their personal life.
I don't ask direct reports that much about their personal life beyond asking about weekend plans. Through that, I sometimes learn of their families and spouses through information they volunteer, but it feels invasive to go fishing for it otherwise.
I've also reported to people that have been great to work with, been fully invested in my goals, yet didn't know much about my personal life, because it's none of their business.
Through that, I've still felt a great deal of trust that they can deal with the aforementioned priorities.
Put another way: If I clearly don't care about their families, then I clearly don't care about their families.
Sometimes they don’t have much to talk about. Then I’ll give extra feedback or talk strategy. Less than 5% of my 1:1’s end early.
It wasn’t always like this. We had to build trust and get in the habit of talking. Some new people think it’s weird for a month or two but I’ve never had anyone say it was a waste of time after that.
My items are:
1. review of past period, work plan for the next few months with a focus on the period till our next discussion
2. formal feedback on what is going well and what not (informal feedback every time is needed or asked for)
3. every quarter only: career plans, training plans
It usually works, or at least it worked in this format for the past 10 years, never had any complaints, always had excellent relations with direct reports (this is what I believe and this is what they said, I cannot be 100% sure). I am in managerial positions for more than 20 years, in the first 10 I would rate myself as a poor manager.In the past 10 years all my direct reports were managers themselves and I treated them as such.
What did not work:
1. Focus on projects instead of the person. Project meetings, even with 2 people in the room, are not a 1 to 1 and not a replacement
2. Be very formal. I learned that by having 2 direct managers doing that, so I promised myself not to do with my team.
3. Focus on anything else than that person. The meeting is for that person, not for the manager.
4. Be political and evasive. It works for some people, but they will never be trusted by their teams, especially if there are lower lever managers in the team. I was always considered to be abrasive, it is a way to say "very direct and too honest". My team seems to like that, the others are not my problem.
My conversations are about 70-30 regarding work-nonwork topics, often last between 45 minutes and 90 minutes (but we usually schedule about 60), and for some people is more about personal development and conversational experiments than direct work issues. This is because work 'issues' are almost always handled on-demand, and don't require scheduled meetings as we see them as high priority for the people experiencing the issue(s).
The result so far (pas 1.5 year) has been that team clusters (we cluster about 4 scrum teams for a total of 24 people) work well on a personal and social level which solves the politics and technical communication as a side effect, which works much much better than the other way around (trying to fix social/political issues with technical communication). Out of every 30 people we have about 4 that can't seem to integrate very well, even after a year of trying from both sides, at which point we find a different structure, team or cluster of working. If that doesn't work, the person(s) in question usually aren't comfortable in their position anyway and can get help finding work elsewhere, or try to define a position that suits their needs more while still providing the value we expect contractually (but you get much more technical and contractual at that point which never really works out well).
TL;DR: 1-on-1 talks work best when they are an additional contact point and not the only time you get to review and solve things in work or life.
I try to do a walking 1:1 around the neighbourhood or go to a nearby cafe, never in a meeting room. The temptation to have laptops and Slack is too great. Actually my secret weapon for 1:1s was to get an analogue watch so I can keep track of time without getting out my phone and seeing a notification and pulling myself mentally out of the 1:1. I do keep an Evernote checklist for each person so if I think of something during the week that I need to discuss I'll add it there, and if they assign me something during the 1:1 I can quickly jot it down.
Most engineers' initial instincts towards 1:1s is to use them as status reports and tell me about all the great things they've done over the past week but I try and stop that habit from meeting one. I have other means of getting that info and I'd much rather get them to talk about the future than the past.
1) Car journeys are wonderful ways to find out about someone. If you have to visit another site to remodulate the wajamacallit, take someone with you. Share the driving btw, stop for a coffee if it is a long way. "Seriously, you have never been to the warehouse [or whatever], I'm going on Tuesday, come along"
2) Those mysterious times when the office, or even the corner of the office is almost deserted and one person (or two) is left there, go and sit next to them, tell them your head is fried from x meeting and you need a break from spreadsheets... then "so, how are things with you". People can be less defensive at their desks (as long as it doesn't look like you just pounced on them). Lots of times someone has replied, "actually I have been meaning to talk to you, but you have been so busy I didn't want to waste your time!". Do not do this at the end of days when they are trying to go home! This happens here on Friday afternoons a fair bit, where people have booked an afternoon off, and the phones have gone quiet.
1) It's about them, not me. No agenda. If there is nothing to say or discuss, fine everybidy gained 30 minutes.
2) Make it quality time, if you have to many directs reduce frequency to bi-weekly.
3) Keep it confidential.
For me, scheduled 1-on-1s served as a reminder to talk at least once per week (or every two weeks) with people. I tried to have multiple conversations any how as often as possible. But at least once.
I also realized that I was horrible in the begining with keeping them, I simply rescheduled too often. So my message to my directs was "force me to stick to them, if one had to be cancelled force mw to get one by end of the week".
Sometimes they became project / work related discussions, sometimes general ranting (also necessary sometimes), sometimes personal and sometimes we were done within less than a minute.
Ehat I aslo tried to do was to be open about myself, always a little bit more than my dorects. Trust is important, and for me trusting my directs first (being open about myself goes a long way) helped a lot in gaining that trust. Doesn't mean I couldn't be a no-no-sense guy when needed.
0. 5m of catch up, ask about any ongoing personal stuff, talk about hobbies, whatever. Be a human for the start of it. I cannot overstress how important this is. Talks like this are your window into your team-mates personality and what kind of incentives they respond to. Similarly, you have to expose your opinions and motivations to your teammates here so they understand how to respond. Managers absolutely need to lead the way and be more transparent here. I usually offer one of my many cute stories about my 4 year old daughter and her ongoing absurd antics, or talk about upcoming pet rescue work, or ongoing tech projects I take on the side. I listen more than I talk, when I can.
1. If there are HR concerns raised or to be raised, I start with those. These include things like inter-personal interactions, performance, etc. I'm blessed with teams that seldom have these issues, but when new team members join you can use this time to help establish team norms.
2. I make sure to answer any HR or complaint questions they have. This is also where I ask about career advancement goals and how they feel about progress. This may take the full amount of time.
3. I try to summarize how their progress so far is matching the career goals we set at the start of the evaluation period, and make suggestions if I have any.
4. We then carry over to the remaining time discussing any sort of directly work-related things if they want help or advice with that.
5. If the employee wants to talk about work, we can fill the remainder of the time talking about personal things. For example, the other day a friend of mine offered to look at a magic deck I put together as I got back into the hobby.
6. I always end it with a phrase pretty much verbatim, "As always, if you come up with other questions you need answered or if there's anything you feel uncomfortable talking out loud about, please email or slack me. You can also email or slack my manager, their email is firstname.lastname@example.org."
- Have an agenda in mind. If there were older 1-on-1's use them as a direction to set an agenda. A hazy 1-on-1 is not much different from having a drinks in a bar
- Have the reportee come prepared with his / her concerns. If they can be shared ahead of time, that will be great
- Keep aside a good 45 mins to 1 hour for this. You need to listen a lot
- Keep 1 on 1's strictly professional - focused on the productivity of the reportee
What is something you did you were proud of?
What is something that challenged you?
What are you most nervous/challenged by in the coming week?
How are you going to approach these challenges?
What can I do to help you overcome the challenges?
Of course, the report should drive the agenda, but having these in your back pocket can help with one to ones that are overly tactical ("can you help me with this problem I was working on just before we started talking").
A data engineer friend at a platform for small stores sees her manager twice a week in half hour increments.
The format is important: keep it relevant, respectful, constructive, honest and confidential.
That means: no gossip, no rumors, no ranting, no empty promises, no disclosure of information from other 1:1s. Few minutes of casual talk is fine, but cannot use up all the time.
Either (he|she) wanted me to leave or that place is in the middle of a fight I don't want to be apart of.
Stay on topic of technology please.
My skip level 1x1's i try to schedule a 1-2 per week, i have over 80 people, so this rate gets me through most of the team by the end of the year. It's good to get a pulse on the team through this manner instead of just hearing it from the managers, and it lets you get to know the people in your organization more intimately, i'm sure at some point this doesn't scale, but i'd like to keep it up, maybe as the org grows larger to sample folks instead of trying to get to know everyone. I'm in learning mode mostly here, trying to figure out what makes them tick, what's frustrating them, i also try to recognize their work if applicable and get a good grasp of their potential. Sometimes i'll get into their project details, because a) it helps to relax them to talk about technical things b) it helps me to gauge their potential and then i get a better sense of how to coach their careers. Again, listening is key here. Skip levels are also 30m. Recognition for their work is important, great to hear from your manager, but also great to hear from your manager's manager. Typically the skip level engineers don't have a list of topics, so it's more me getting to know the individual better i typically ask about their background, what they're working on, i like digging into the technical details, whiteboarding is wonderful. In terms of career discussions, i most likely don't have all the specifics about their skill set, so for that, i expect the managers to sort through. But obviously if they have career questions, i'm happy to give them my perspective.
way way better.
most of the time, 1-on-1 is personal issue (death, scheduling conflict, injury), or personality-clash.
not a big fan of endless meetings. much prefer management, to be out and about (checking on the state of things, resolving problems).
I don't normally favor firing people (unless there is something seriously wrong with their behavior). There is always a way to work things out.
A light touch, at the right time, goes way further than "constant meetings". Also being able to work to accommodate people (remembering them as people, first and foremost).
If you’re on top of your game, this is totally a valid way to do it.
...but I’ve worked with people who use ‘light touch’ as an excuse for ‘don’t want to do people things, so I’ll just get on with my work’.
That’s a failure at everything you’re supposed to be doing.
The take away here is talk to people. ...how you do that, though, can vary and still be successful.
me I just trained my reports to use their judgement where appropriate, and bring things to my attention when it looked like it was going to be a problem that needed to be addressed long-term (and was above their paygrade/resources).
for exceptional workers (blessed with danger sense, good judgement, aptitude), they had full autonomy (fill me in on your touch points but otherwise, handle your business).
you could think of it as an "evented" style of management. with direct monitoring as the core. I've always been a fan of go and see; relative to wait and read report.
to be frank, when it was just about the work, things went swimmingly. I made sure the right people had the right styles of work (worked to their strengths) and never assigned work to someone who wasn't capable of it. most importantly, I always took into account a persons limitations (physical, social, mental, personal).
day-to-day stuff they manage their own time.
... plus a 5 minute discuss/debrief on long-running projects works well with capable workers.
same with the general group dynamics (unless there is an objective problem, I let them run their own thing). and yes, that meant sometimes they had disagreements; but as long as they were adult about it, they usually sorted it out on their own.
same way I run my direct reports up the chain to my bosses, btw.
I tend to alter the corporate culture under my "umbrella" of responsibility.
Only interrupt developers if it is urgent. For a developer, resuming a task after an interruption can take time and effort.
Using an issue trackers and building discipline around keeping it updated is preferable to polling people for updates constantly.
"How is this task going?" -> go to the ticket for that task in your issue tracker and read the status field.
If you feel like "talking a lot", don't do it in the areas where developers do their work. It is distracting for developers.
...and if my workers were under the gun, they understood I was there strictly to offer assistance. shit sometimes I pull up a chair and code right next to them (now fangled as "pair programming"). sometimes people need a little help.
true story, I had a dick client-side manager, whose project was about 2 years overdue, getting raked by the consulting company I worked for (body shop). they put me on the project, I tuned that shit up. johnny on the spot, and six steps ahead of the project/clientside managers.
... about two months in, I'm 20 minutes from closing out the entire project (I took some dev shortcuts to speed shit up - I was always a "high velocity" developer), I'm undoing the hacks (finalizing) to turn in the project, when the clientside manager decides he's going to come in to "motivate" me. if you are a developer, whose ever worked with a cunt of a manager who doesn't know tech/their ass from their elbow.... you know what that means.
... literally minutes away from closing out his entire project, and I quit the project (then got fired from the company).
took'em a month to close it out after I left. if the work had been less quality, it would have taken them six months. ;)
Now if he'ld shut the fuck up and let me handle my business, would have taken exactly 10 more minutes. and this was after I saved his ass on the project, and saved both of their asses with a direct product demo (pieced one together in under 4 minutes with 10 minutes notice) with the client-side ceo.
I know who can get shit done, and who is having problems. because I know, whats going on in the projects/devs. and that comes from talking to people. not looking at status fields.
if you learn nothing else, go and see. codebase ain't always the codebase/trouble-ticket. its the people writing it.