1:1s How I Learn to Support

Quick intro: I recently switched my career path. I was a tech lead, which basically means that I lead a project but I had no reports, and now I’m an Engineering Manager. As an Engineering Manager, I longer “lead” a project in the technical sense, I am responsible for people.

What I want to talk about today, is how I’m quickly iterating on my 1:1s. I’m seeing what is working and what is not. My first “official” 1:1s with my team I had no agenda (which from what I’ve read is what should happen) and I just got to know my team by asking the right questions. I’m onto my second round of 1:1s and I’ve already iterated.

In a sense, my team found the agenda-less free-for-all 1:1s quite useless. Sure, I got to know them a little and they got to know me, but I got the feedback that they felt like the 1:1s bring nothing. So, I learned. When I had my 1:1 with my manager (who I will also say is acting like a mentor), I found it refreshingly different. Why don’t I also adapt?

So, I stole what he did with me. A small change that I think will bring huge benefit to my team and also for me to look back. I introduced a shared google document. Now, to many of you, this is obvious. For me, I felt my personal notebook was enough. For my team, they felt there was no accountability and nothing gained.

That’s not the only change. In this shared document, I’ve created some sort of structure per 1:1 I want to have. You can see that the topics and discussions are still open and that my team can bring them up ahead of time if they want.

Discussion Points:





- Was this 1:1 meaningful to you?

- How can I improve?

The most important change is that we now have action items out of every 1:1. Those action items can either be for me, or for my team member. This way they can hold me accountable or I can hold them accountable for their progress. It has made the 1:1s more meaningful to them.

I also want to hold a mini-retrospective with my team member after the 1:1. I want to learn how I can support them. What they find useful and what they don’t. I want to learn the best way that works for them. It’s also a chance for them to give me feedback on how they want 1:1s to work.

Now, going forward, I can already pose questions for the next 1:1s that my team member may want to think about. Things like: goals. What do they want to achieve at Careem? We can make it an action item so that they really consider what they want out of their experience at Careem and then discuss next 1:1.

There’s also a way to look back. We can see how they have improved over time and what we’ve discussed. If there are recurring discussions, then we know something needs to be done.


In conclusion, I’ve found creating a shared Google doc that has all the discussion points and action items has helped increase engagement with my team. You can quickly iterate over what works for your team by having a mini-retro (a couple minutes long) after every 1:1. This document will help you evaluate and guide your team for the future by keeping track of their past.

Originally published at https://www.alexaitken.nz on March 5, 2019.




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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