Last year, I wrote a post after about 6 months being a manager of a rather large team (two pizzas would definitely not be enough to feed them). I wrote about the types of questions I ask during 1:1s. Here’s a little update as to why you shouldn’t really follow my advice anymore.

Following a Template will not Help Your Team Grow

If you’re looking for templates questions for your 1:1s, don’t. It’s great as a first-time manager to start somewhere, but as soon as you have more experience, you realise that a template of questions that you ask everyone is not really effective for growth.

You want to tailor and look for how you can improve the strengths/weaknesses of your team. I don’t really want to hear status updates during 1:1s. We have daily standups for that. I also don’t want to hear the same thing you told me last week (unless it’s actually something that hasn’t improved). I want to hear what’s really bothering the person.

1:1s need to be tailored to each individual. It should be personal and it should dig into the story just under that shielded surface. 1:1s should not be for the manager, but for the colleague. It’s a chance for the manager to help the colleague reflect and learn (and therefore grow).

Being a Coach

Being a coach as a manager means that you need to really take a step back. I’ll have another post on coaching your colleagues to growth. It means, that you need to put on your listening hat rather than your advice-giving hat. You should be able to let your colleague figure out the best solution on their own.

Now, there is a whole raft of questions you can ask. In fact, someone has compiled a list of 1:1 questions that is rather full! However, I think you can use those sparsely. There’s an even better question that lets your colleague dictate what this 1:1 should be about.

What’s on your mind (since we last spoke)?

If you don’t have set 1:1 themes (for example Careem is moving towards monthly performance management with one 1:1 dedicated to performance each month), then this will help your colleagues open up and show you what they actually care about.

With this one question, you can dig deeper into topics that your colleague wants to talk about. They will open up about a whole lot that you may (or may not) know.

Being a coach means that you are their personal cheerleader. You want them to grow and they will grow by raising topics on their mind and solving their own problems.

And what else?

This question you need to know when to stop. It helps get everything off your colleague’s mind, but also you don’t want to push too much. I’ve managed to push too far and had feedback that it felt like I was questioning them like I was a lawyer.

Always Learning

Management/leadership is not an easy path. People look to you for the answers to their questions. It’s your job to remind them that they also might have the answers. You need to be there for them when things are going well and when things aren’t going so well.

As a leader, you should be open to feedback on your management style or on how you deliver feedback to others. You need to be always eager to improve and learn. You should be curious about your product as well as the people.

There’s no one answer to management or leadership. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the technology sector or in the construction sector, you should be ready to take on new challenges each day.

Summarising what I just wrote:

  • Don’t spit out templated questions to your team. You’ll probably get the same templated answers back.
  • Ask tailored questions and follow up. Be curious.
  • Never think you’ll stop learning. You should seek out feedback on how you’re doing.

Being a leader means people will look to you. Being a coach means that you can encourage them to seek the answer that they already know.

Originally published at https://www.alexaitken.nz on February 18, 2020.




Writer and engineering manager @ Traveloka // www.alexaitken.nz

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Alex Aitken

Alex Aitken

Writer and engineering manager @ Traveloka // www.alexaitken.nz

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