One-on-ones are dedicated times in a manager’s schedule for direct reports to talk about anything BUT current projects.

Let’s talk about One-on-one(s)

One-on-ones are dedicated times in a manager’s schedule for direct reports to talk about anything BUT current projects.

🤔 Why you should care about it

Regular 1:1s are like oil changes; if you skip them, plan to get stranded on the side of the highway at the worst possible time” - Marc Hedlund, former VP of Engineering at Stripe.

One-on-one meetings (1:1s for short) are probably the most underrated tool for the engineering leader, yet it’s one of the most powerful. It’s the one moment in the manager-report relationship dedicated to personal growth and challenges. Team members’ retention takes root during 1:1s.

😫 Problem(s)

Lack of personal growth and problems with management/organisation is among the top reasons developers change jobs. So when you spend so much time finding great people, it’s worth investing time to help them grow.

😃 Solution

One-on-one meetings:

  • Happen weekly
  • Last at least 30 minutes
  • Are never cancelled by managers
  • Are a place for coaching, mentorship, giving context, or even venting
  • Leverage active listening from the manager
  • Are prepared in advance by both the manager and the team member
  • Help managers and team members follow up on the team member’s development plan

😡 Detractors

Most developers are introverts, so 1:1s with them are awkward or last 10 minutes.

—> Even introverts have concerns and ambitions. To open the discussion, use open-ended questions (see list of 42 questions for your 1:1s) and be vulnerable about your concerns and ambitions. You can’t expect people to open up if you don’t.

1:1s are useless for senior people. They solve their problems and ping me when needed.

—> Even the best athletes and performers have coaches helping them go from good to great. Why not offer that chance to your best team members?

I don’t have the time to do weekly 1:1s, I have too many direct reports.

The industry standard for team size is seven direct reports for one manager. If you have more direct reports, it might be time to split up your team and leverage existing leaders to take on some of your responsibilities.

Even if I don’t want to, direct reports always talk about current projects during 1:1s.

—> It’s normal for team members to go back to current projects, especially if they feel like 1:1s are the only moment they can get help from you. Ensure you have enough status meetings and availability during the week to talk about current projects so that 1:1s can serve their real purpose.

💡 Key Concepts

Active listening —> a form of listening where the speaker is fully conscious of the speaker’s verbal and non-verbal messages and provides appropriate feedback to show attentiveness.

Open-ended questions —> questions that can’t be answered by yes or no, triggering a discussion.

Coaching —> a tool to unlock a person's potential to maximise their performance by asking questions and listening.

Development plan —> a pragmatic list of knowledge, skills and behaviours a team member needs to complete to accomplish their career goals.

📚 Books

books/the-secrets-behind-great-one-on-one-meetings.pdf at master · ffisk/books
Contribute to ffisk/books development by creating an account on GitHub.
The Art of The One-on-One Meeting: The Definitive Guide to One-on-Ones
[Free Ebook] One-on-one meetings: The definitive guide to the most misunderstood and yet powerful tool for managers. 90+ pages of the best advice.

⚙️ Tools

Fellow.app | Great meetings are just the start
Fellow is the best tool for meetings. From 1-on-1s to team meetings, build collaborative meeting agendas, assign action items & record decisions.
Structured 1:1 Meetings Software | Leapsome
Have an effective and structured 1:1 meeting. Share meeting agendas, use templates, and add talking points easily via Gmail and Slack. Book Free Demo Now.
Know Your Team
Hold effective one-on-one meetings, get honest feedback, share progress, and build team rapport.

📝 Content

42 Questions for your one-on-one(s)
Not all engineers are fans of 1:1s and they sometimes come to the meeting without any questions. When this happens, you can pick questions from this list to help start meaningful conversations, even when everything is going well

My very own contribution to the cause. Whenever you're short on questions for your 1:1, check out this list 🤓

The Update, The Vent, and The Disaster
Business is noisy. Business is full of people worrying loudly about projects, process, and other people. These people have opinions and they share them all over the place -- all the time. This collective chatter is part of the daily regimen of a healthy business, but this chatter will bury the indi

Michael Lopp (Rands online), an Apple, Stripe, Pinterest veteran, and best-selling author, shares his playbook about running 1:1s with software engineers.

2019 State of One-on-ones Report | hypercontext.com
Data collected from over 200 managers from various industries, departments and company sizes on how they approach one-on-ones with their team.

The State of One-on-ones report uses data collected from over 200 different managers to present a holistic view of how managers approach one-on-one meetings. By Hypercontext (who provides a tool to run 1:1s).