February 27, 2019

The Basics of 1:1s

A brief look at the structure of a 1:1 and some of the simple things that you can do to ensure that they are effective.

The Basics of 1:1s

I have done quite a few 1:1 sessions in my career and looking back I was surprised to find that I have never really blogged it. So the next few series of blog posts will be all about 1:1s, starting with this one.

The Basic Structure

On a high level, my recommendations would be to have 1:1 sessions with each of your team members for about 30 minutes each week. At first glance, you may think that it might be a bit to frequent, but my suggestion would be to first try it out and if you still find it to be the case, then scale it back.

I would also suggest you give yourself 15 minutes after the meeting to formalise any notes that you have taken down and include a TL;DR with some clear actions items.

In the past I always used to take notes in either a notebook or in OneNote. However, I came across a suggestion to create a Slack/Teams channel for each person. This will allow you to paste your notes from the meeting as well as provide a place where both of you can post about topics for discussion in the next 1:1.

Things to Remember

When conducting 1:1 sessions, the following items are important to keep at the back of your mind. They are easy to forget and I have fallen prey to them in the past.

  • Don't let these sessions land up being status update meetings. Their time is to valuable to waste from information you could get from a Scrum/Kanban board. Be careful, it is easy to fall into this trap. I have done so many times
  • The topics of discussion should be "tough". You know you are dealing with important issues when it isn't easy to discuss them
  • You don't always need to come up with answers immediately. Sometimes it is better to give the problem some time to simmer

The First 1:1

When you have your first 1:1 meeting, it may be awkward, so just put it on the table to clear the air. Once that is done, the list below is some of the things you can chat about.

  • Identify their current goals and see how their current work can assist them with that.
  • If they have had 1:1s before, ask them what they found useful before
  • Explain that each session should have some clear outcomes which will be the input for the next one

What Are Some Signs That They Are Working?

Sometimes you may question yourself if the 1:1s are working for your team members. I know I have questioned myself many a time, so the list below are some of the things that you can look out for.

  • They tell you that they are helpful
  • They have a clearer sense of direction and understanding of what is required of them
  • They start feeling motivated and push themselves to meet their goals

So that wraps up this post. If you haven't done a 1:1 before, I hope it gives you a sense of direction and if you have, I hope some of the ideas are useful to you.

Until next time...keep learning!