Story 3: Don’t Underestimate the Importance of a First 1:1

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Problem

In the last few years, I’ve had the pleasure of kicking off lots of new relationships with both engineers and managers. I’ve learned a lot over time that getting specific data during the first 1:1 meeting can be really helpful. I’ve also learned from my mistakes and seen that the first 1:1 is crucial.

Actions taken

I usually keep questions/answers and message history by emails. Not the best tool for sure but it’s actually enough for my peers.  The emails are composed with these common categories:

1 Open discussion

The goal here is to begin with the current mood but also discuss current work and team members.

2 Training and events

The goal is to follow important events and training session required to pass the next level

3 Area of improvements/actions taken

The goal is to get your team member to take the 1:1 slot seriously – and not consider it an interruption to otherwise more important things.
Below are questions I ask during the first 1:1:

  • What do you like in your current position and company?
  • What do you dislike in your current position and company?
  • What makes you professionally happy?
  • How I can know you are in a bad mood? Really helpful when you have remote engineers
  • In what medium (Slack, email, in person, etc.) do you prefer to receive feedback?
  • What makes 1:1s the most valuable for you?
  • What are your goals for this year? And for the next 3 months?
  • What do you expect from your manager?

Lessons learned

The failure of my first 1:1s made me think a lot and I realized they were not fully efficient and productive. Here are my main takeaways:

  • 1:1s must be prepared
  • Have regularly scheduled 1:1s
  • Focus the 1:1s on the people, less on technology or project
  • Be on time for the 1:1s
  • Avoid too frequent 1:1s, every 2 weeks is the base
  • Don’t talk too much as a manager/tech leader
  • Keep a 30 minutes meeting in calendar but adapt according to the situation, less or more
  • Don’t miss career path (common categories can help)
  • Find a medium where your direct reports can respond
  • Don’t wait for 1:1s to give critical feedback All in one: being engaged, genuine and authentic are key.

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