Framework for 1:1s

Prompts that can take your 1:1 to next level

In the previous article, I talked about a tool to establish trust with your reports. Once trust has been established, then the leader's job becomes easier, but also more challenging at the same time. Easier because now you have opened up a channel for candid conversations and a feedback loop. Challenging because now you have to work on actions to uphold that trust.

Turn check-ins to Coaching

One point we all agree on, is that check-ins can seem like forced interactions, where you'd ask at surface level - How's it going? It's great if devs share openly following this question, but the follow-up discussion doesn't usually have a structure. Also, what do you do if the only answer you get is 'Yeah everything is good, no issues'? In such cases, having prompts leading to deep thinking are a game changer. Not only do they encourage both parties to think deeply in retrospect, but also help to establish a deeper understanding of issues, goals, learnings and aspirations.

Now why am I calling them coaching sessions and not check-ins? Because they are outcome-oriented. Each session is focused on alleviating an issue if any and then setting a goal for growth.

Questions I use from the framework that have been generating good results for me.

These are a few examples but are not limited to

  1. What’s on top of your mind: Updates/Things we should talk about.

    This opens up the stage to address any immediate concerns. Once this is addressed, you need to set the tone for things that they can start looking forward to.

  2. Things that went well these past weeks: Recent wins and positive news.
  3. Learnings: Things we’ve learned or could’ve done differently.
  4. Feedback: Recognition and suggestions for improvement.

    Above three questions will showcase how, as a leader you've been looking at their development and that their efforts are not going unnoticed. If you're not getting a lot of input from these prompts, then you may want to remind them with examples where they showcased learnings or opportunities that they took/missed etc.

  5. Priorities: Top things we’re focusing on from now until the next time we meet.

    In cross-functional teams it's often seen that devs might be getting pulled in different directions. A leader's responsibility is to provide clarity to the team on priorities.

  6. Challenges: Roadblocks/concerns — and ways in which we can work them out.
  7. Team Dynamics: Is there anything we can do to improve team culture?
  8. Goals: Between now and the next meeting.

    To me this is the most important section of 1:1. I always talk about short-term goals and long-term goals in each session. Long-term goal - that's usually set for or as part of a quaterly goal. Short-term goal - A goal that's set for a fortnight. This could be about learning a new technology framework, tool or pattern, improving existing skill set. This is broken down into 2 or 3 action items that are achievable before the next 1:1. This usually forms part of long-term goals but not always.

  9. Career Development/Career Conversations Follow up on your career goals.

I have been using this framework and the feedback loop on this is great. By no means this is the end game for 1:1s, this will keep evolving with time. Now when I get into 1:1, I have a rhythm that I work with devs and it directly impacts their experience working in the team and organization.

What are your tools for effective 1:1?

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