Problem

In the last few years, I’ve had the pleasure of kicking off lots of new relationships with both engineers and managers. I’ve learned a lot over time that getting specific data during the first 1:1 meeting can be really helpful. I’ve also learned from my mistakes and seen that the first 1:1 is crucial.

Actions taken

I usually keep questions/answers and message history by emails. Not the best tool for sure but it’s actually enough for my peers. The emails are composed with these common categories:

#1 Open discussion

The goal here is to begin with the current mood but also discuss current work and team members.

#2 Training and events

The goal is to follow important events and training session required to pass the next level

#3 Area of improvements/actions taken

The goal is to get your team member to take the 1:1 slot seriously – and not consider it an interruption to otherwise more important things.

Below are questions I ask during the first 1:1:

- What do you like in your current position and company?

- What do you dislike in your current position and company?

- What makes you professionally happy?

- How I can know you are in a bad mood? Really helpful when you have remote engineers

- In what medium (Slack, email, in person, etc.) do you prefer to receive feedback?

- What makes 1:1s the most valuable for you?

- What are your goals for this year? And for the next 3 months?

- What do you expect from your manager?

Lessons learned

The failure of my first 1:1s made me think a lot and I realized they were not fully efficient and productive. Here are my main takeaways:

- 1:1s must be prepared

- Have regularly scheduled 1:1s

- Focus the 1:1s on the people, less on technology or project

- Be on time for the 1:1s

- Avoid too frequent 1:1s, every 2 weeks is the base

- Don’t talk too much as a manager/tech leader

- Keep a 30 minutes meeting in calendar but adapt according to the situation, less or more

- Don’t miss career path (common categories can help)

- Find a medium where your direct reports can respond

- Don’t wait for 1:1s to give critical feedback

All in one: being engaged, genuine and authentic are key.