Imagine you and your employees never speak outside of status updates; imagine your sole communication with them revolves around a project’s progress.
You don’t know their career aspirations, satisfaction levels, or even their thoughts on the project you’re discussing.
Such an estranged, distant relationship is hardly going to facilitate collaboration between the two of you.
This is where 1:1 meetings come in – they are your chance to discover all of the above and more.
This article will walk you through all the particularities of holding an effective 1:1 meeting, so you can truly connect with your developer.
Table of Contents
What Are 1:1 Meetings
Unlike team meetings, these meetings are private and confidential; they’re designed to cultivate the connection between you and your employee.
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Why Are 1:1 Meetings With Developers Important
1:1 meetings are the best environment for getting to know your employees.
It’s your chance to lend them your full support.
Employees are clearly starving for feedback; take advantage of 1:1 meetings to give them some.
Of course, don’t just bombard your developers with negative criticisms.
Tell your developer what they’ve been doing well, and encourage them to keep up the good work. Knowing they’re working well will increase their productivity and motivation.
Afterward, calmly move on to constructive criticism; let your developer know how they can improve.
Think of it this way – if negative feedback is appropriately delivered, it’s actually a developer’s most helpful asset.
Criticism will help your developer improve professionally, meaning you’re assisting them in advancing their career.
This type of constructive feedback will improve your developer’s job performance as they advance their knowledge.
1:1 meetings shouldn’t be clinical lists of your developer’s achievements and failures. Instead, they should sincerely discuss their feelings and experience at the company.
If your team members trust you, they’re more likely to voice their concerns, and you can reach a solution together.
However, verbal communication is only part of the puzzle.
Body language is the most crucial element in communication. When hosting your 1:1s, make your body language welcoming.
No one’s in trouble; the two of you are simply having a sincere, collaborative conversation.
Talking About Career Development
No one wants to stay in the same role indefinitely; it’s normal and human to strive to improve oneself consistently. Your developers aren’t any different.
A lack of career development opportunities is one of the main reasons employees are dissatisfied at the workplace. Don’t let this happen to your developers.
Don’t be shy; encourage your team members to speak frankly and openly, so you can give them your honest opinion and support them toward their goals.
Tell your developer what milestones they’d need to reach to guarantee such advancement.
A Reddit user offered similar advice in a recent thread:
As per this engineer’s input, 1:1 meetings are the perfect opportunity to discuss career progression.
How to Run Effective 1:1 Meetings With Developers
Create a Meeting Agenda
The first step to an effective 1:1 meeting is a plan; otherwise, you could forget to bring up an important topic.
With this agenda, you’ll discuss everything you need, so – there’s no chance of missing anything.
Design the agenda in a way so that you have a few ‘main’ themes, and write at least two questions per theme.
When preparing your agenda, you’ll want to delve into as much detail as possible. Fortunately, there are online tools to help you out.
With such a detailed report, you’ll have an excellent base for organizing your meeting agenda.
Looking at this example, this particular developer is focused on new work and helps others the least.
Adjust the Length of the Meeting
With that employee, don’t end the meeting without discussing everything on their mind. As a manager, you must support all your team members, however long it takes.
Remember to treat each developer individually, depending on what needs to be discussed and how extensively.
Then, once the session begins, you can start a timer and see how long the meeting actually takes.
With this tool, you’ll get an exact report of how much time you spent in a 1:1 and how much time you should reserve next time.
Start the Meeting with a Win
Therefore, do your best always to start the meeting with a win.
Furthermore, beginning with some happy news tells your developer that you’re here for them. A 1:1 meeting should be a supportive environment dedicated to improving workplace satisfaction.
Hector LaMarque also encourages this type of behavior:
Even if your team didn’t perform well last week, do your best to find something you can praise your employee for.
If you missed a deadline but your developer debugged one codebase, congratulate them.
Identify Improvement Opportunities
As mentioned before, a 1:1 meeting is about your developer; you should focus on supporting them however you can.
As such, these meetings are an excellent environment for discussing what can be improved and worked on.
It was identified that customer support was needed on social media, and a chatbox was the best solution for the job.
Ask Them Questions
Although 1:1 meetings are great opportunities for you to connect with your employee, not every developer will want to open up right away.
By asking your developer the correct inquiries, you should unearth their genuine feelings on a matter.
For example, avoid formulations such as ‘Do you feel comfortable with your current task?’. This inquiry can very quickly be answered with a simple yes or no, and no further details.
Instead, ask your developer: ‘How are you feeling about your role/project?’
A 1:1 meeting is an invaluable part of your job; it’s the most accessible tool you can leverage to get to the bottom of what’s on your developers’ minds.
In these meetings, you’ll have the perfect opportunity to give feedback, build trust, and discuss career development opportunities – all necessary components of managing a team.
Ensure you have a meeting agenda and allow enough time for the meeting. Start the session with a win, and spend some time pinpointing improvement opportunities.
Throughout the entire 1:1, consistently ask questions – that’s how you’ll get to know your developer best.