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If you Google ‘one-on-one meetings’, you’ll find articles with some sound advice but which generally assume you’ve already begun having 1:1 meetings or know how to start.
There seems to be much less guidance for new managers for the first time they step into the room.
This is an issue, because a lot of the advice for running great 1:1s over time isn’t that relevant for that first meeting.
That meeting isn’t your typical 1:1 and it’s often when you need help the most.
We’ve gathered best practice from a range of great authors to bring you the advice we wish we’d had when we were starting out.
One of the mental changes we all have to make when we become managers is that we often lose the satisfaction and gratification of doing work that makes an immediate impact.
We don’t spend all our time shipping code, or designing features, or launching marketing campaigns, or presenting reports. All things which tangibly delight customers and our colleagues. Or if we still do, we’re doing it wrong.
Instead we spend our time advising, coaching, coaxing, contextualizing, meeting, and coordinating.
The impact of this - teams of happy, diverse employees delivering sustained high performance - is remarkable. But that impact isn’t felt every day.
Sometimes it can feel like you’re not having much impact at all.
Now, you may be lucky enough to have management cheerleaders within your organisation who will remind you of the fact that your role is arguably the most important (and undervalued) at the company. But it can be quite hard to articulate exactly why that’s the case.
‘If you’re a people manager, your team’s friends and family have likely heard about you.’
It’s very simple but it does a wonderful job of signifying the impact that you have in the role. Now, as Miller notes, this isn’t meant to be taken in a negative way - as if every mistake you make will be reported to your team’s loved ones. It works both ways.
You have the opportunity to help create a career and workplace which will dramatically impact someone’s life to the extent that they’ll tell those closest to them about what you’ve done for them.
Not many other colleagues get to say that.
We’ve all been in those meetings where you present an idea for consideration, there’s a couple of comments, but largely an awkward silence.
You know that there are things being left unsaid.
It could be because people are just tired, or they could be uncomfortable discussing the topic publicly, or it could be that your preferred management style is ‘crushing dissent’.
Either way, you have two options. You can either say ‘Great, glad everyone’s agreed’ and move onto the next thing, or you can choose to pause and dig deeper.
It’s a good reminder that when those silences happen, we should resist the temptation to move on, and do the work to find out what our teams really think.
This may involve some of the following:
If you’re going to have an article title like that, it better be a good read.
Fortunately software engineering leader Juan Pablo Buriticá’s piece for Stripe’s Increment magazine on this topic is as eloquent and engaging as you would hope, taking in the history of remote work via the Catholic church, NASA and IBM. If that sounds like your type of thing, check out the full piece.
Amid the story-telling though, we can pick out some valuable advice for any team looking to evolve their culture to one where writing plays a greater part in communication.
It has taken nearly 2 years, but many companies are waking up to the fact that moving all that informal office communication into formal virtual meetings has been a disaster for people’s diaries and mental health. The answer is shifting some of it instead into writing, and Buriticá has some thoughts.
If you’d like to start moving more of your communication to writing, you’ll find our manager’s guide to writing here.