1:1 (pronounced ‘one-to-one’)

The 1:1 is a term given to a meeting between two people.

Here we are talking about the 1:1 between a manager and a direct report – here is where the 1:1 becomes impactful. Impactful for both the people and the business.

Since I’ve worked in big tech, both as an IC and as a manager, the 1:1 has been the most significant tool/technique/approach which has had the most impact on me, my performance and my growth.

So what is it?

It’s a 30-minute to 1-hour meeting (depending on what you both agree is a good length) and you do it every week. And, we prioritise that meeting above all. The rules on cancelling are that the direct report can cancel when they want (even 2 mins before the meeting), but the manager should not.

Everyone does them differently.

When I do them with my direct reports I sometimes have an agenda, but mostly it’s whatever the IC wants to discuss. It is their time, dedicated to them.

We cover all sorts of things. We might start with a general chat like “how’s life?”, we might talk about progress on a specific project, or we might talk about a cross-team relationship that someone is struggling to build. It really could be anything. It’s whatever is on the direct report’s mind.

A few times per quarter I’ll dedicate time to career conversations. We’ll talk about aspirations, bounce ideas off each other, discuss growth opportunities and even make some plans.

For 1:1s with my manager, I mostly turn up with 2 or 3 key points I want to get feedback on. It could be – “I’m struggling with X”, or “X is on my mind, what are your thoughts?” or if I need to I might just give an update on a project which I think is important to share.

Overall, 1:1s are a big commitment. But they are hugely important to everyone involved.

So what makes it successful?

  • It develops a culture of fast feedback. Problems don’t sit for longer than a week, we talk openly about them.
  • It gives you a dedicated channel every week which is dedicated just to you.
  • It builds trust and shows care.
  • And by the manager prioritising it every week it shows that people are valued.
  • I use mine (with my manager) for advice and guidance, and for highlighting when things are not going so smoothly.
  • I also encourage my team to ‘manage up’, they should tell me when I’m wrong and help me understand if I don’t understand something, this is a forum for that.