One on One Meetings

By | June 29, 2020

There’s so much great material written about 1:1 meetings that it’d be redundant for me to post an in-depth article on how to have a good experience with these meetings.

If you want to take a deep dive on 1:1s I’d recommend Jason Evanish’s excellent posts 1:1s for Great Leaders and 10 Things Every Employee Should Know About Their One-on-Ones.

My quick list for one on ones:

  1. I like to use some tool to list topics (in advance), take notes, capture goals, and action items.
  2. The meeting is not mine: we jointly own the meeting. The calendar invite is editable by you, you can extend, shorten, move, increase/decrease frequency, or even delete it.
  3. I don’t like transactional 1:1s. It’s good to spend some time chatting.
  4. This time is not for a status update. I don’t want to hear about project progress or how much code you are writing. These meetings are not for you to prove yourself.
  5. Prepare. Take some time to think about what topics would be good to dive in on.
  6. The best piece of advice I’ve ever heard about success is to make everyone else around you successful first. Tell me how I can unblock your work, coach you, find opportunities to help you learn, and become more successful.
  7. Give me feedback too. Everyone makes mistakes and the best people learn from them. Tell me when I’m wrong.
  8. 1:1s should be actionable and we will follow up on those actions. One of my favorite quotes: “if your 1:1s are not actionable they are just therapy sessions”
  9. Have 1:1s with your peers.

Signs that one on ones are going wrong and something needs to change:

  1. You dread one on one meetings
  2. The meeting is frequently cancelled
  3. Silence

When something needs to change I’ve found success in facing the issue and talking it through. It can be as easy as a change in format, expectations, location, time, or it can be something more complex. Either way, ignoring it just makes for uncomfortable unproductive meetings.

Actionable, supportive, and open 1:1s are the best meetings I go to. There’s a ton of value for both people in these meetings and realizing that value is an accelerant to a fantastic working experience.