SW#22: Effective 1:1s for Software Engineers

On this episode of the Software World, I talked about the importance of 1:1 meetings for software engineers and how they should change their perspectives. I mentioned a couple of strategies about having practical and high-quality 1:1 sessions with managers and how software engineers should approach these meetings.

If you want to learn more about my thoughts, take a look at my previous post. If you are looking for my 1:1 template, you can find it here.

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If you have any questions or thoughts, you can reach out to me on Twitter or at podcast[at]candostdagdeviren[dot]com.

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You can listen to the episode Effective 1:1 Meetings for Software Engineers on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Overcast, Anchor, PocketCasts, Breaker, Castbox, Google Podcasts, RadioPublic, or any other app that you listen your podcasts.

Transcription

[00:00:00] Hello, everyone. Welcome back to Software World. It's been a while and I'm back. I skipped the last scheduled time. I was having vacation with my family and I'm back. So I hope you are doing great. I had a really good summer and. I'm really energized. I'm really ready for the next episodes

[00:00:44] and you will hear maybe a little bit more about me talking alone. But I will of course have some guests because I already invited a lot of people, so I'm really excited to have both different formats -together. Today, I will talk about effective one-on-one meetings. And on my blog, I wrote about this in** ** two posts. Most probably you didn't read it this is why I'm doing this episode, actually, because I really think that we need to change our one-on-ones in a way that the software engineer owns it. So I will talk about how to improve our relationships in one-on-ones and what are the steps we need to take these one-on-ones into the next level.

[00:01:25] This talk is aimed to software engineers, but if you're in any kind of leadership position, it still applies because I think after listening to this, you will want to send this to your engineers as well. And also you can use these ideas in your one-on-ones with your managers.

[00:01:41] So I will talk about first, why we are having one-on-one. Why do we insist on having one-on-ones? And then we will talk about why the engineer should own the one-on-one and what is important in one-on-ones. Why do we insist on having one-on-ones without one-on-one meetings? We have no forum to discuss any issues with our manager, because most people are not comfortable with sharing their ideas in public.

[00:02:07] So whenever we feel any discomfort, it is usually easier to share these problems with our manager or leader in a private setting. without having one-on-one. We basically have no place. Another part is, I think it's more important is personal growth. one-on-one meetings are the place that you as an engineer should focus on your personal growth.

[00:02:30] one-on-ones are the place to discuss your future plans and talk about the opportunities. Ask for new opportunities, ask for extra responsibilities and also a place for coaching, Because as you grow. You stay motivated and focused and healthy. The company grows as well. It's a win-win big part of this growth happens in relationships.

[00:02:54] when we think about relationships. There are three entities in relationships. People usually forget the third one. the first one is you. one person. And of course the second entity is another person. And in one-on-one settings is your manager, but there's a third entity, which many people forgets its relationship itself.

[00:03:13] When nobody cares to improve this quality of time. This relationship one-on-ones just start becoming another status update or a meeting that could have been an email or in these days a slack message. also at the same time, Managers use these meetings to make sure to have an alignment between your personal goals and team and company goals.

[00:03:35] So it's a place for both your growth plan and for your manager to listen to your growth plan and come up with a better plan or maybe improve your plan to align it with your company and teams goals.

[00:03:49] So in these one-on-one sessions with managers, there are overall four things happen. First is mentoring and coaching. It is the engineering side. Like your team lead, or your manager can mentor you or coach you in your engineering and collaborations. And growth so they can give you some advices, how you can improve your skills, how you can improve your collaboration with others and how you can focus on your growth.

[00:04:17] And the second part of course related to the previous one is your personal growth. It's the place to make sure. That as an engineer, you are continually learning and also not just learning by yourself alone you're growing others as well. You're sharing knowledge. It's a place to make sure that you are following those patterns.

[00:04:38] And the third one is objectives. Defining how do you want to grow is usually achieved via objectives. So in your one-on-one meetings, you and your manager sit down together or join in a Google meet or zoom session, then define how do you want to grow? Where do you want to go?

[00:04:59] Do you want to become a people's manager like engineering manager or team lead, or do you want to become a staff engineer or principal engineers and follow the IC track individual contributor track. In these meetings, you define those objectives and how you are going to achieve them.

[00:05:14] So step by step, you make a plan in those one-on-one sessions. And the last one, the fourth one is the sanity check. It's a place for your manager to understand your well-being is okay. You're doing good. Nobody wants you to burn out.

[00:05:29] this is a place that managers usually use it to check how you're doing, how is your wellbeing? How is your job satisfaction? And if there is any problems, any blockers or anything, it's a place to identify them and resolve them. So this is why do we insist on having one-on-ones and they usually the content or the main goals of one-on-ones.

[00:05:50] In the second step, which I strongly recommend to everyone, that engineer should own the one-on-one not the manager. Many times I've seen that, managers schedule one-on-ones with their engineers, which is a good step, but it also gives the impression that manager is hosting those events, hosting those sessions, but it should be the other restaurant and while managers are scheduling these events and also organizing and trying to talk with engineer and et cetera, managers usually excuse themselves by saying, it's your meeting, right? Like, I've heard this many times, like manager comes to the meeting and they just say, it's your meeting, your chance to talk. So what do you have like they usually ask, what do you want to talk about today?

[00:06:41] Or do you have something to talk about today? So when we really think about this, If manager's says, it's your meeting, your chance to talk. And they ask the engineer, like, what do you want to talk about today? Then I think the engineer should own the meeting because it's the engineers meeting. It's what managers says, right? Even though, they schedule it, they host the session. They say it it's engineer's meeting. It's your meeting. If it is your meeting, then you should own it. But how does this only look like, what am I talking about when I say you should own it?

[00:07:15] First, you need to act it like a product. Think like a software project that you are developing, if you don't maintain or update this project, it starts to accumulate debt, right? Technical debt. So you cannot just leave it there and you need to act to these meetings in the same way. If you don't maintain or update this meeting with the new information that you have, then it starts to rot.

[00:07:38] And also you need to facilitate it. What I mean by facilitating is even though the manager schedules the event, ask your manager, Hey, can you transfer the ownership of this meeting to me? Facilitation means creating an environment in the meeting that everyone shares their opinions freely without having stress. So you need to make it be directional. Facilitating doesn't mean that you should talk all the time. You should make it be directional, but think yourself as like a moderator or facilitator of the meeting and the last one you need to prepare for it. you cannot go to one-on-one without any preparation. it's not a meeting that you're just going to listen. You have to go very well prepared. Usually what I've seen is that one-on-one meetings takes 30 to 45 minutes or sometimes an hour, depending on the situation or depending on the environment you're in.

[00:08:30] But this is the limited time. Even if you're out doing weekly, you need to prepare it. You have no other choice and the case is, in my opinion, you should not prepare to this meeting just 10 minutes before prepare during the week. So whenever something comes to your mind, just take a note. Whenever something bothers you, just take a note. Whenever you are happy, whenever you have a positive feedback, whenever you have a negative feedback, just write it down somewhere and you have the preparation then. When you own this meeting, although you are the subject, it's time to collect feedback, ask for opinions and share perspectives.

[00:09:07] So good communication happens when two sides exchange those thoughts and feelings constantly. That's also why your manager has to prepare for it as well.

[00:09:15] Also to keep in mind, performance Raviv meetings, usually yearly or six monthly, are the result of one-on-ones. So when you are preparing to one-on-one meeting thinking like you're preparing for performance review meetings, because performance review meetings are the result of one-on-ones. That's the end result what you're going to get.

[00:09:34] Now we are talking about the preparation. I want to go a little bit into details about preparation. So when you're preparing for your one-on-one meeting, I highly recommend you to use a template and a shared document with your manager. You don't need to reinvent the wheel. Like there are many, many, many, many one-on-one templates online, and I attached mine to the show notes as well.

[00:09:58] So you can find mine too and use it. Why template? You may ask because. Many people think they are really annoying because you need to follow a structure, but that structure that specific structure, nudges you to think in specific way. So if you have a good template, then it will nudge you to think different perspectives and the template will demand more information than you normally put onto a blank paper. And also you need to share this document. That's why I also recommend using one document with your manager together as a shared document. And everyone uses the same document all the time.

[00:10:38] So there is no need to create two different documents when you are having one-on-ones with your manager.

[00:10:44] When I said preparation during the week, not just 10 minutes before the meeting, what I mean by is, whenever something happens, you need to write it down at that specific moment. and when you write this Thing like let's say in one day your colleague made an annoying comment on your PR and it was really offending comment.

[00:11:06] And you're a really angry and you were a little bit conscious and said, okay, I'm not going to respond today because I'm really angry. And I want to come back tomorrow. Maybe I'm misreading things. And the second day, your responded and updated the code because your anger is not there. And then that's all, and three days later, your company announced a big change that highly affects you. And two days later you have your one-on-one. So what do you think, which topic are you going to talk? What was the PR issue again? Right? Because you will most probably talk about your company's change that highly affects you. You will forget about that PR comment that your colleague made, and it was really offensive and it really annoyed you. Because whatever happens on the last day usually stays as a topic for one-on-one.

[00:11:51] That's why, whenever something happens, you need to write it down at that moment and write it down to your shared document with your manager. Because when they see it, they come prepared to the meeting and whenever they see any problem that's happened and they see the document beforehand, there's no surprise to anyone.when your manager also does the same, then most often there is no surprise for you as well. Of course, there will be some surprises all the time, but it's getting less and less. So I want to talk a little bit about this.

[00:12:22] Template because I have my template and I said, I attached to the show notes which you can find on candost dot blog slash podcast in my template, I have six categories. in these six categories, I always try to think every category one by one before coming to a meeting if I have nothing there.

[00:12:42] So what are they? First things. It's literally things. So this is the category I right here, like. We should talk about things on top of my head, things that vent well. So I write those things really without using other categories in the second one, I have the category learnings. These are my top one to three recent learnings, maximum three, because whenever I learn something I want to share with my manager and I want to share with my colleagues and it also shows my manager, if I am learning something new or not, and if this category is empty for, let's say two months in a row then I can also say my manager, Hey you know what as you can see from my previous entries, there's like nothing here and I'm not learning new things. please bring me a new challenge. I want to learn new things. This is a place that I can show my manager that I'm learning And if I don't, I can ask for something new to learn. And the third category I have is feedback. It's the place where I assess the work and collaboration and my wellbeing and job satisfaction. And also my manager does the same. It's the place where we give feedback. We ask for feedback. So whenever I get into this category, I always think back and ask myself, did I miss anything?

[00:14:01] Was there anything should be raised as a negative feedback. If I have any negative feedback to my manager, maybe they made a comment that made me feel sad. And also it's the place where praise, I give them any positive feedback to my manager in my one-on-one meeting. If it's empty and if I didn't add anything during the week, I just think back, okay?

[00:14:23] They did this really well, because that was so smooth. For example, they created a roadmap, which I find really cool because it enabled me to see the future a little bit clear. So I give this feedback like this roadmap helped me a lot. Thank you.

[00:14:38] And then other category is challenges and blocks. These are the things that prevent you doing your best work. So these are the places where I asked for help. We don't talk about any specific project or anything, but if I'm blocked in my growth, or if I have some things preventing me to grow and do my best work, then this is the place I write them down.

[00:15:00] I write my blockers. I write those challenges and I asked my manager for help. Also this is the place where they usually coach me, like, mentor me sometimes. They usually say, oh, okay, this is your obstacle right now. maybe you can solve it in that way.

[00:15:13] Or did you try this way? They ask other clarifying questions. And then I find the solution by myself in that meeting. So these are the parts that we usually talk about a lot more.

[00:15:24] The fifth one is priorities. So we have expectations from each other. And every time when we have an expectation, we need to clarify those expectations and agree together to be able to continue working on them. So in priority section, we clarify expectations. And also for my manager, same applies. If they have any priority related to me, they put it there so that they don't forget.

[00:15:49] And the last one is action items. And this is the place where we prepared a base for the next one on ones. So until next one-on-one which action should we take individually? And we assign those actions to my manager or to me, depending on the action and until the next one-on-one, we want to see them finished.

[00:16:09] Action items prepare a base for the next one-on-one. So, we are continually learning and working together.

[00:16:16] So to sum up great one-on-one collaboration consists of four different aspects. First, you need to change your perspective as an engineer, you should own the one-on-one meeting and you should act like a facilitator and you need to prepare for it.

[00:16:30] And the second use one document to rule them all, so one document will bring transparency during a week and it will enable you to see the future a little bit clear.

[00:16:39] And the third one, if you have any growth plans in your company like competency frameworks, or any other growth plan for individual contributor, growth or manager growth, then it's a place to check in those things.

[00:16:51] And the fourth aspect of the one-on-one collaboration is preparing for the future. So whatever you are doing in these one-on-one meetings, prepares you for the future because at the end performance reviews are the result of one-on-ones.

[00:17:05] Before we close up, as a next step go and ask your manager to own next one-on-one meeting.

[00:17:11] And second, create a shared document and apply the template in there and with your manager use this document.

[00:17:18] Third step, Write it down whenever something happens don't skip it. Just write it down into this document and share with your manager.

[00:17:26] Fourth step, the last one, whenever you write something write for today with an eye towards future.

[00:17:32] I hope in four steps, you will make your one-on-one collaboration way, way, way better with your manager. And if you have any questions and if you are having any struggles with your one-on-ones, you can reach me out at podcasts at candost dot blog or on Twitter candost-e-n C a N D O S T E N.

[00:17:50] And I would love to hear from you, however you feel about this podcast and these new formats, and you can write me on Twitter or send me an email from same address as well.

[00:17:59] I hope you liked it. Don't forget to share it on social media and send it to one of your colleagues or work friends or your friends to help them as well until next time, take care

Podcast

Sep 28, 2021
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