August 9, 2021

The rules of a 1:1

Disclaimer: this is based on my experiences and career. This is mainly documented as an example.

In my career path I've come across 1 on 1's of all kinds. The biggest annoyance I had during those experiences was that my 1 on 1's tended to be technical syncs.

If you manage people, following up their technical progress and their achievements or issues are really important. However this is mainly pushing back the real reason for a 1 on 1.

In order to not make the same mistakes I've setup a rule set and a general playbook I follow with all my direct reports during their 1 on 1.

A 1 on 1 is a meeting (maximum 1 hour) between a manager and an employee. This is usually the direct manager, but can be done across hierarchy when needed/asked.

The goal of a 1 on 1 is to improve the employee's work experience and provide a guidance on how he is doing within the team/company in regards to his targets/objectives.


Rules

The main goal of the 1 on 1 are:

  • to improve the employee's work experience in the company and team,
  • to improve the manager's interactions with the employee,
  • to be a safe place where the employee can discuss items without any repercussions,
  • to consist out of honest but brutal feedback. This is the platform to allow the employee and the manager to grow, beating around the bush does not help anyone.

During a 1 on 1, we only take notes of action points, we don't note down any other items discussed.

A 1 on 1 is ended by positive news and remarks by the manager, never negative items.

Playbook

Go over your (as manager) action points from last 1 on 1 and verify whether they have been fulfilled to satisfaction of the employee.

Go over the employee's action points, and discuss the status.

  • Ask how he/she feels with you as manager
  • Ask how he/she feels within the team
  • Ask how he/she feels within the company
  • Ask what is annoying (broken laptop, bad chair, too much noise,...)
  • Ask what blocking (other dept. work not done, waiting on colleague?)
  • Ask about any other issues he/she might have (should be visible in posture/gestures)
  • Give him/her your experience of the last month related to him/her, be honest (brutally honest, no need in bullshitting as people don’t appreciate that in the end).
  • Give him/her the next action points that you think should be done.
  • Tell him/her what you really appreciate about him/her, what you noticed improved (nothing negative from here on)

Ask if he/she has more to say, if he/she crying give him/her the time to calm down and dry his/her tears.

Reiterate over the discussed action points so everyone is on board and optionally set a new date.

Always exit the meeting room smiling!