How to make your 1–1s more effectives

How to make your 1–1s more effectives

Apr 23, 2020·

5 min read

Photo by Christina @ on Unsplash

When working in an agile development team, having effective communication is essential. In times of remote working, where teams are distributed, it’s important to ensure that all people on the team are aligned with the goals, sharing knowledge and risks when necessary.
1–1 meetings are a great way to connect and bring people closer. To make these meetings more effective, consider doing them frequently and adapting it and its recurrence according to the participants’ perception.

Regularity and adaptability

The frequency at which 1–1s occur is critical to making meetings short and focused. Camille Fournier, in The Manager’s Path, proposes a weekly frequency, at least initially, and suggests adapting the interval when the two people agree that it can be longer. Having 1–1s with a defined cadence means that people will have more contact and be able to work focused on action plans together.

When starting a new team or new project I have the habit of doing 1–1s with each person on the team to learn more about the person’s journey, motivations, fears and goals. After that first moment, I usually schedule a recurrence for these 1–1s to keep happening. Usually, I propose that the meetings take place once every two weeks and, when necessary, I make the meeting more frequent, due to priorities or person needs. The 1–1 meetings can vary in format to meet the goals and needs of the participants.

Types of 1–1s

There are different types of 1–1s. The most important thing is to understand what works for the people involved and which type fits your needs at the moment.

Getting to know you

It’s common to use this type of 1–1 in the beginning of a relationship with someone. Mostly I use this type of 1–1 in an onboarding process of a new team member. In this 1–1, I try to understand more about people journeys, what they like to do in their free time, how are their families and friends, what this person values the most outside of work. In this type of 1–1, it’s important to create a relationship and show that you care about them as individuals.

Questions that might help to run this type of 1–1:
What do you like to do when you are not working?
How was your life journey?
What motivates you to come to work every day?
How do you like to be praised, in public or in private?
Why did you decide to work in this area?
What is the behavior you value most in a team?
What do you expect from a leadership?

Tip: In this type of 1–1, the main goal is to understand the journey and get to know the team member. It should be a light conversation, without a script or formal questions. Be present and listen carefully.

The catch-up

In this 1–1 meeting the main objective is to guide the team member, providing specific feedbacks about the progress and discussing next steps to reach their goals, which were defined in the development plan. Both parts should bring key points and define the most important items to work in an action plan.

In this case, it’s also important to review the actions that are in progress and that were already done. This will be useful and insightful for next steps.
In companies in which leaders are responsible for salary and progress review, this moment is extremely important.

Questions that might help you run this type of 1–1:
What competencies would you like to focus on your development plan?
Which one of them do you think that is more relevant for our current context?
How can I support you to develop these skills?
What can we do to put an action plan in practice?
What will be the short and medium term goals?
Are you comfortable with those actions that have now been aligned in this 1–1?

Tip: Remember to reinforce positive attitudes and actions that were well done. This is a great way to recognize the efforts and celebrate small victories of the team member.

The feedback meeting

Providing constructive feedbacks can be hard sometimes. If you have a team member with performance issues, this 1–1s should happen more frequently. It’s important to document these feedbacks and this documentation should include issues, expectations and action plan. Also, this feedback monitoring will be useful to identify improvements on the team member journey.

Don’t wait for the 1–1 to provide feedback when someone does something that needs immediate feedback. The longer you wait less effective feedback will be. In these moments try a direct and specific approach about the behaviors that will be addressed. By providing examples, you will help the team member to understand, reflect and think about an action plan to avoid these behaviors in the next time.

In these 1–1s you can use some frameworks, I usually use SBI: Situation, Behavior and Impact.

For example:
Situation — At the planning meeting when we were discussing about the functionality issue
Behavior — You interrupted me a lot of times when I was talking and you didn’t give me any opportunities to share my point of view
Impact — This made me uncomfortable because I had a lot of experience to bring to the discussion

Questions that might help you to run this type of 1–1:
What has happened to you lately that I should know about, or how can I help you with?
What can we do to improve your performance?
What could I do to better support you?

Mix it up

This 1–1 meeting can happen during coffee, lunch or is somewhere on the office that feels more casual. I don’t usually do this type of 1–1, just whenever I can’t find a private conference room available in the office or something unexpected happens. In order not to miss talking and following up the progress, I keep the 1–1 commitment, proposing some other time or place to make it happen. This type of 1–1 is basically a catch up. Usually, I only take a notebook to take notes.

The 1–1s meetings are a great opportunity to build trust and create strong relationships.

Last advices:

Schedule the meetings and be committed;
Create a document for each team member, with dates, main feedbacks and progress of the team. This will be very helpful when having a performance or salary review;
Engage the team to have 1–1s to get to know each other and to help them in their progress.