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Use 1-1s to have hard conversations

Ramesh Sarukkai

Director of Engineering at Lyft

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Problem

Often when managers go into one-on-ones they'll ask how their team members are, how their projects are going, and what work problems they have. But, you should use your one-on-ones to talk about hard topics - what's not working, things that in many cases lead to uncomfortable yet hard conversations - at least most of the time. A good litmus test is that if you can have the 1-1 in your kitchen stop or in front of your peers/teams, then you are not being effective enough with the use of that time.

Actions taken

If you are discussing things that you'd be comfortable talking about in the hallway of your office, then you shouldn't be discussing these things in a one-on-one. Try to use one-on-ones to get into more difficult and uncomfortable discussions. Talk about what's not going well, and what you want your staff to improve on. While you can start by asking team members about how they're going, you should go deeper based on their answers. Talk about things they are uncomfortable with, and try to identify issues they have. For example, you could ask them what a manager would need to do to be viewed by them as excellent. This helps to encourage action. Often people will try to avoid discussing the issues they are having, so you may need to probe to identify problems areas, or areas of improvement.

Lessons learned

Having this type of mindset towards one-on-ones ensures that they are a lot more effective, and you will achieve more out of them. When you start discussing harder topics, this will also encourage people to constantly think about areas of improvement, and how to encourage others to improve.


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Ramesh Sarukkai

Director of Engineering at Lyft


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