When you move from a technical leadership role to the management track, you gain control, authority, ownership of a specific area and a team of engineers. You feel great! This sense of authority makes you feel like you got a promotion. However, transitioning from a tech lead to front line manager role is not a promotion, it is an entry level position in a completely new track. Given it is a brand-new role, you need to learn many fundamental concepts of management. One of the foundational building blocks to successful management is one-on-one meetings.
Weekly one-on-one meetings with your direct reports are some of the most important meetings you have. New managers often forget that they are not only responsible for the technology, but they are also responsible for their team members’ success and happiness at work. Here are some basic concepts that you need to internalize about one-on-one meetings.
Know them as a person
The most important ingredient of a successful one-on-one meeting is mutual trust and good relationship. In general, the first step is to get to know each member of your team as a person. You need to understand what’s important to them outside of work, so you need to ask questions with curiosity to find out what’s happening in their personal lives.
It’s their meeting
They own the agenda. You’ll always have things to discuss but you should give them a priority and freedom to pick what’s top of mind for them.
Don’t cancel at the last minute
In one-on-one meetings they plan to bring up topics which they won’t be able to discuss otherwise in other forums. Don’t cancel or reschedule one-on-one meetings without prior notice. It signals them that it is not a priority for you. This is especially important when you have just started managing a new team.
It’s not a status meeting
The one-on-one is not a meeting where you discuss project status. You have plenty of opportunities in this meeting to check on their general happiness. This is an opportunity to have candid conversations, give each other feedback, exchange ideas on projects and team, and follow-up on commitments.
Connect feedback to career growth
One-on-one meetings are perfect for providing constructive feedback. Once the feedback is shared, it is important to explain how addressing feedback impacts their career growth. If they are not able to connect the dots, they won’t be able to act on the feedback to improve.
Every one-on-one is different
One-on-one meetings are not one-size-fits-all because every team member needs something different from you. Most likely, every team member is at a different level of their career and they need support from you on a unique set of things.