Google Sign inLinkedIn Sign in

Don't have an account? 

Making one-on-ones less related to day-to-day work.

Team processes
Health / Stress / Burn-Out

6 December, 2017

Andrew shares how his approach to one-on-ones has evolved over time.


When I first started in management, I did not understand the purpose of one-on-ones. Are we talking about work or about the person? At the time, I figured I needed to chat about stuff with my direct reports multiple times a week. In order not to disturb my reports all the time, I would write things down in a spreadsheet and schedule a meeting, and would then give them all of my comments and my feedback gathered in the week in one conversation. This approach was more "if we have time, let's talk about your career plan" and I would avoid conversations about personal matters most of the time. I would almost never add personal growth or personal life issues to my list of things to talk to my reports about. Because of this, my reports would sometimes get irritated, and would ask questions such as "Why didn't I get the promotion?" or "How did he get promoted?".

Actions taken

I kept on believing that meetings to go over work-related matters were important, so I kept them and tried to blend the two together. I tried talking to my reports for 30 minutes about work related issues, and then for 30 minutes about more personal matters. But this did not work out that well, as we'd end up talking for too long about work issues, or we would rush through the personal part "How do you feel? Good. OK, let's talk about work stuff". However, a good split between work-related meetings and meetings about personal growth and life outside of work (i.e. one-on-ones) is important to get the most out of your employees. It helps to change the setting of one-on-ones and to take employees out of the office. This helps to change dynamics and lets people open up. The change in setting also helps to ensure you don't just discuss day-to-day work-related matters.

Lessons learned

One-on-ones are not a status update. Ultimately, they are a way to get a sense of where your employees are at with the company. They let you know if they're happy, sad, frustrated or even if they're about to leave.

Related stories

Handling a Mistake - Adopting a New Workflow
6 July

Shridharan Muthu, VP of Engineering at Zoosk, describes how he quickly agreed to adopt new workflows, a mistake he later regretted, and how he handled the situation by spending the time to course correct and taking a stab at making things easier for his team.

Team processes
Agile / Scrum
Shridharan Muthu

Shridharan Muthu

VP of Engineering, Backend Applications at Zoosk

Leveraging the Team to Salvage a Frustrated High-Performer
24 May

Marc LeBrun, VP Engineering at Flow Kana, shows the value in establishing a collaborative relationship with a withdrawn but highly-capable employee. We can then use that bridge to draw the person back into the team and elevate everyone’s performance.

High Performers
Internal Communication
Marc LeBrun

Marc LeBrun

VP Engineering at Flow Kana

The Power of Introspection in Career Growth
15 May

Tarani Vishwanatha, Senior Engineering Manager at Scribd, shared a story where he dealt with the conflict of an upset engineer that did not get a promotion he believed he was entitled to. He explains the distinction between being the most technical and being well rounded. Vishwanatha talks about the importance of being self-aware as it's essential to career growth.

Team reaction
Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Conflict solving
Tarani Vishwanatha

Tarani Vishwanatha

Senior Engineering Manager at Scribd

Making Some Hard Decisions About a Geographically Split Team
29 April

Chris Rude, Engineering Manager of Managers, Payments Infrastructure at Stripe, explains how he handled some hard decisions about a geographically split team.

Team processes
Chris Rude

Chris Rude

Senior Engineering Manager at Facebook

Being a Proactive New Manager
30 April

Akila Srinivasan, Engineering Manager at Apple, transitioned from IC to management within a year of joining a company. She describes becoming a new manager, the proactive measures she took moving into the new role, working with former peers, and how she brought back stability to a recently reorganized group.

Personal growth
New Manager
Health / Stress / Burn-Out
Akila Srinivasan

Akila Srinivasan

Engineering Manager at Apple

You're a great engineer.
Become a great engineering leader.

Plato (platohq.com) is the world's biggest mentorship platform for engineering managers & product managers. We've curated a community of mentors who are the tech industry's best engineering & product leaders from companies like Facebook, Lyft, Slack, Airbnb, Gusto, and more.