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:
- I like to use some tool to list topics (in advance), take notes, capture goals, and action items.
- 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.
- I don’t like transactional 1:1s. It’s good to spend some time chatting.
- 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.
- Prepare. Take some time to think about what topics would be good to dive in on.
- 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.
- Give me feedback too. Everyone makes mistakes and the best people learn from them. Tell me when I’m wrong.
- 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”
- Have 1:1s with your peers.
Signs that one on ones are going wrong and something needs to change:
- You dread one on one meetings
- The meeting is frequently cancelled
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.