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One-On-Ones for Engaging Employees: How Good Managers Run Them

Goal Setting

11 November, 2021

Matt Anger
Matt Anger

Senior Staff Engineer at DoorDash

Matt Anger, Senior Staff Engineer at DoorDash, shares some of the benefits of having one-on-one meetings and tips on how both parties should run them.

Everyone Dreads One-on-Ones

It is no surprise that 1:1 meetings get deprioritized most of the time 一 especially in the tech industry.

Every time someone looks out on their calendar and sees such a meeting, their eyes roll at the back of their head. It’s not too late to discover that 1:1s are by far one of the most essential kinds of meetings anyone can have with their managers. The biggest challenge is making the team members realize the importance of this. While some people believe informal chit-chats can replace it, passing by their desks, or discussing primarily in-between tech specifics in an ad-hoc way, no one in particular understands how it can significantly help them.

How To Make One-on-One Meetings Effective

Be Open and Honest:

While one-on-one meetings are a great way to provide various status updates and questions regarding the workloads during the week, don’t forget what would contribute to professional growth. Both the manager and the team members are looking towards evolving in their careers, and in order to do that, both parties need ample feedback.

Some employees might think that they are rockstar performers, while their manager might not think so. Constructive feedback and open communication is a vital step towards such growth. Most employees have a vested interest in decisions that could impact their development. Sometimes these conversations could be much scarier, particularly for junior engineers, but in the end, we are all working towards what’s best for the company.

Whether it’s a team member switching to another team to find another product or something more appealing, or feedback regarding their work itself, ultimately, it would allow them to show off their best work. It’s all about being able to have the kind of difficult conversations and being comfortable with having them.

Setting Actionable Goals:

No one wants these kinds of muddy goals to be established for them. Setting clear expectations and goals are worth the effort. Instead of managers saying, “I need you to show leadership,” managers could enforce, “I need you to lead this project.” On top of that, making sure that the goals are clear and actionable; for instance, they will own a feature, and a team in order to complete the project does contain a practical value.

Have the Right Mindset:

Both the manager and the team members must know that it’s an open place and feel comfortable. As people evolve in their position, mainly, the manager and IC relationship should be seen as boss-employee, and more like two employees working together. Having conversations that are flexible to accommodating topics to favour both sides are the key to making the most out of such meetings.

Lessons learned

  • Set some boundaries for one-on-one meetings instead of making excuses to run away from those. Keep your morale, productivity, and engagement in check through these meetings. When managers conduct such meetings properly and become comfortable with their team members, both parties feel valued and engaged, as a result.
  • Normalize having 15- minute meetings, or even impromptu Zoom calls, when needed. It could be somewhat awkward to have short sessions but think of these as those pantry rooms or drop-by desk meetings. Such discussions are considered more productive than setting up routine appointments, where some people could appear late or simply can’t hear or see one another.

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