How do I have an effective 1:1?

The value of a good one-on-one is nearly immeasurable: it's a time to sync on things in a format you can't get any other time or in any other medium. I believe a really great one-on-one is where your best work gets done.

To make your one-on-one's effective: define and agree upon their purpose together, be clear about the schedule, use the time to sync on things you can't anywhere else, and work to keep things casual.

Action Items

  • 1. Define and agree upon the purpose up-front

    First-and-foremost, you'll want to set a clear agenda or purpose for the meeting.

    The agenda can be high-level (e.g. "Catch up on everything that happened over the last week in our lives.") or more focused (e.g. "Discuss a decision I need to make tomorrow around Project X.") The key thing is to have a clear purpose or agenda both parties understand before meeting.

    What do you each want to get out of the time? What would a successful sync look like? What is most valuable to the relationship? Even if the time is spent just catching each other up, that's immensely important time for teammates to have.

  • 2. Be clear about the time and recurrence

    It's not enough to agree on the purpose of the one-on-one, both people should know in-advance just how much time will be dedicated to the meeting and how often they will occur.

    Some people use 1:1s as a way of getting updated on work, others use it as a chance to just chat and get to know the other person, in either case the amount of time required will play a key part. Discuss and agree on how much time you'll need to fulfill the purpose of the sync, and how often you should be meeting.

    Consider how close your relationship is to the person: if you work very closely, weekly is a good cadence. If more casually, as far out as once a month can suffice. It will vary for every person you meet with.

  • 3. Use the time for things you can't do elsewhere

    Email, group posts, chats in Stride or Slack, these are all good ways to stay in-sync with your peers about ongoing work. What you may not have the ability to do through these mediums is sync on more personal or pressing matters; things you can't say in the other formats or things which may not be suited for those channels.

    Focusing on the individual, the working relationship, or things which may impact others but need to be figured-out in advance. Consider the value of any one-on-one is being able to discuss these important subjects on a micro level, without interference or the ears of a larger audience.

  • 4. Keep it casual and human

    This is my personal preference, but I think it's worth noting: one of the best parts of a one-on-one is that they're done in real-time, usually face-to-face, with the other person. Meaning: you can see the person, you can better understand what they're saying or how they're listening, and you can interject the conversation with questions or ideas on-the-fly.

    Keeping the conversation casual and friendly builds the working relationship and enables you (as a team) to better tackle work subjects.

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