As a lead, you will be having 1:1s with your team members. These guidelines are meant to support you in the process, however, note that they're in no way mandatory. If you're an experienced lead and have your own system in place, great!

Frequency

1:1s should be held regularly and consistently. They're your opportunity to check in with the person and understand how they are doing and what you can do to support them.

  • Ask your team members what cadence they prefer - weekly, biweekly? There might be experienced team members that prefer a less frequent check-in and that's also fine, provided you have enough connectivity with them via other channels

  • Set a recurring appointment on your calendars

  • Do not cancel - it gives the impression you don't find them important. If you have no other option but skipping one, notify the other person as timely as you can and offer to reschedule.

Preparation

  • Keep a rolling document, private to you and the team member to use during the meetings.

  • Plan a pre- and post- 1:1 meeting buffer. Take 5-10 minutes before the meeting to look through the last notes and anything new you might have added to the agenda. Come prepared.

  • After the meeting, take time to write down action points, follow-ups and any other notes you might need. The notes that you keep for yourself don't necessarily = the rolling agenda document.

● Follow-up from previous conversations:

○ What do my follow up notes say I need to act or check on?  What update do I need to share?

○ What feedback, and for what purpose?

● Information and feedback

○ What do I need to be sure to communicate? What projects or work am I involved in? 

○ What organizational issues/news/efforts should be shared?

○ What appreciative, positive feedback can I give?

● New goals or tasks and career development

○ Is there anything to delegate?

○ What project, task or work would be helpful to their development?

○ Are there growth or learning opportunities to discuss?

○ What aspirations and dreams do they have, longer-term, for their career, roles and interests?

Running a meeting

The goal of a 1:1 meeting is to build trust with team members. It's sometimes easy to steer the conversation to the topics you want to bring instead of listening to a team member. Ideally, a 1:1 should encompass "listen first, talk second". Even if there are some important news to talk about, try hearing the other person out first.

Normal agenda is to start with very open questions like "how are you?" or "do you want to talk about anything?". After that, if everything is on track, you can switch to a topic you prepared.

Building rapport

[See also - new team member guide]

People might not be familiar with the idea of 1:1s. Or they might have bad previous experience with these meetings. In the first meeting it is important to explain what this meeting is about and why are we doing it. Indicate that this meeting is a safe place to discuss the topics that the other person wants to discuss.

Talking points

Up to you but feel free to try some of these questions:

  • Ask them how they're doing - did anything happen, are they excited about something specific or bummed about anything? Listen and take notes

  • If something isn't going well help them bounce ideas to look at options for a solution

  • Run through the team objectives or other goals you have set together. Is everything working as expected?

  • If better/as expected, celebrate and perhaps consider together extra things to work on

  • If not as expected: state timeline by when you need to see improvement and ask if there is anything you can do to help/remove blockers.

Include career conversations/learning opportunities at least once every quarter. Do they want to learn something new? Attend conferences? Do they want to take up another role, and how do they get there?

1:1s Don'ts

  • Don't make a status report out of 1:1 meeting (simple progress updates can be shared via Wrike)

  • Don't promise if you might not deliver. If a person is unhappy with something, our natural desire can be to promise them that we will fix it. If that is entirely in your hands --- good, but sometimes it's something related to other people or the org structure. Promise to clarify the situation and return to it when you have more information.

  • Don't make important decisions on the spot. It is ok to ask for a timeout and for you to follow-up on the issue later.

Difficult 1:1s

With some people you will naturally find a common ground. Some people fit your personality, some don't. These meetings are important regardless of that. Don't panic if they seem to be unproductive or have awkward silences - it can happen. Verify what the other person would find useful (it could be changing tack on the content discussion, or even discontinuing 1:1s, which is fine too if things just aren't working out).

If 1:1s are discontinued, look for other ways to stay in touch with that person, e.g. through team hangouts, or work collaboration. It's easier for people to fall through the cracks and become disengaged in a remote environment.

Other resources

Introducing 1:1s

(an example email)

Alice,

I'd love to get a regular cadence for us to chat. Feel free to come to these with either stuff on your mind to discuss or not -- worst case scenario, we'll cut them short as appropriate.

Please look at this as a form of relationship garbage collection -- If you want to chat at any point outside, or prior, to our regularly scheduled 1:1, grab me -- I'll find the time.

I named this meeting "Bob/Alice" rather than "Alice/Bob" intentionally, so it takes a little less effort to scan your calendar and figure out what the meeting's for than the other way around.

Lastly, you have edit rights to this meeting -- things come up, so feel free to reschedule when this particular time slot is inconvenient to you.

  • Bob

Links for further reading