New Engineering Managers Get the Most from One-on-One Meetings

Posted on: August 9, 2022, by :
New Engineering Managers Get the Most from One-on-One Meetings

One of the best ways for a new engineering manager to establish credibility and earn trust is through one-on-one meetings. A one-on-one (1:1) meeting is a regular meeting between a manager and employee that gives the employee time to share concerns, resolve issues, plan, and receive feedback. For managers, one-on-one meetings are ideal times to coach employees, identify roadblocks, and offer support and guidance to help employees do their best work. Even if you are working remotely, have your regular meetings to ensure your team members can be heard and feel supported. Having one-on-one meetings can improve productivity and working relationships.

Making time for one-on-one meetings is important and yes, it can be stressful to have so many meetings on your calendar. But having regular meetings with direct reports can prevent larger problems from occurring while also saving you time and the organization money. As a new manager, you may be nervous about having individual conversations with your direct reports and that is normal for any new manager. The key is having enough structure to give them a flow but not so much structure that they become routine and unhelpful. Your conversational skills will also improve significantly the more you have one-on-one meetings, so there is another direct benefit for you as a manager. They are helpful for your employees, for the organization, and for you.

In addition to providing opportunities to share concerns or problems, one-on-one’s are ideal times for employees to share their ideas and career aspirations with you. Additionally, these individual meetings offer employees a safe space to share information that is sensitive or concerning. Individual meetings also foster teamwork and problem-solving. Your employees may share challenges with you that cause you to ask questions that help uncover the root cause of problems, preventing larger problems from occurring in the future. Setting aside time each week or bi-weekly for your team members lets them know that you value them. It also helps improve communication and ultimately, relationships. This in turn, helps with productivity and retention so even though you may be apprehensive about having one-on-one meetings, they are worth the time commitment.

Ask questions in your meetings but be open to the meeting changing direction from the agenda you had intended. You want to create a safe space where individuals feel comfortable sharing information and asking questions. Listen carefully and be prepared to ask questions that help employees actively participate in solving problems because when they do, they are far more invested in implementing the solution.

Use one-on-one meetings to recognize good work and initiative, reinforce the positive and frame challenges as learning opportunities. Clarify any questions surrounding goals and expectations and address any resource needs. Ask for feedback and attempt to learn how you may better support their efforts. Take time to understand their interests in addition to their challenges. Find out how they want to grow and develop and support them in their professional development.

The following questions may improve your one-on-one meetings:

  • What has gone well since we last met?
  • What challenges or roadblocks have you encountered since we last spoke?
  • Do you think there are any challenges with the design or project plan?
  • Is there anything you think we could do differently to function better as a team?
  • What skills would you like to develop further?
  • How can I support your efforts?

Use an agenda
Create an agenda prior to the meeting, contributing to what your direct report has provided for the meeting. Add talking points and ensure the agenda is sent out prior to the meeting. Take notes and encourage note taking, adding comments under talking points. One effective way to capture the dialogue is to take notes and project them on a shared screen during the meeting. Then after the meeting, send out notes and any action items to ensure everyone’s understanding is consistent.

Meeting mistakes to avoid

Failing to plan
Productive meetings involve planning and work. Ensure all your direct reports understand the purpose of one-on-one meetings and how they work. Prepare a simple agenda with input from your direct reports prior to each meeting to set the tone and provide structure. 

Focusing on status updates

Yes, projects may be discussed during your one-on-one’s but they should not be the focus of the entire meeting. These types of updates can be handled using Slack or with another tool, or simply by encouraging questions using an open door. Use your individual meetings to clarify information, find out how your employees are doing, or how you can help them accomplish their work or progress in their careers.

Being late or cancelling meetings

Disrespecting your employees by being late or cancelling meetings is a quick way to lose respect. Constantly texting, checking email, or permitting continual interruptions during meetings are all ways to diminish your credibility. If you fail to respect the meetings, why should they value the meetings? If neither of you have many talking points, shorten the meeting.

Regular one-on-one meetings are beneficial to employees and managers, but they also benefit the overall organization because all teams understand goals and objectives. Performance management also becomes easier because managers and employees are communicating frequently and there is less chance for issues to become major problems. With one-on-one’s, feedback and coaching occur naturally and employee’s feel supported and valued. Teams are more cohesive because everyone can contribute and be heard. Interpersonal skills improve because everyone is interacting regularly. Everyone is sharing, listening, collaborating, and solving problems together.

Related Content:

The Transitioning from Engineer to Manager e-book is now available. Learn more here