There is a pretty good reason why a one-on-one meeting with a developer is very crucial.
These meetings can involve going through feedback for projects, sharing ideas, and sometimes just catching up. All these activities are for the sole purpose of creating a great working relationship with your fellow team members.
The numbers don’t lie. According to a recent study, employees who have twice as many 1-to-1s as their colleagues are 67% less likely to be disengaged.
Also, it goes without saying that when senior managers or senior developers have a clear picture of an employee’s work progress, they run more effective programmer performance reviews, which in turn may be beneficial for your business.
A meeting with a software engineer often can have its fair share of challenges and go off track. For you to avoid such a situation, we’ve created this guide on how to run a successful one-on-one meeting with a developer.
To get started, let us look into the importance of 1-on-1s.
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When conducted properly, one-on-one meetings in engineering departments are a powerful tool in not only providing the organization with a developer’s status, but creating a relationship where both employee and manager feel free to express their opinions and views.
After spending so much time (and money) on hiring the best software engineering talents, it is only proper to make time in your calendar and help the developers grow in the best way they can.
The importance of one on one meetings can never be over-emphasized. Good communication between a manager and his dev team member is a key driver of employee performance and engagement.
A one-on-one meeting developer appointment, especially on performance conversations between managers and software engineers, is crucial for ensuring productive communication.
So, what exactly are the benefits of one-on-one meetings?
There is a myriad of ways to conduct one-on-one meetings. The trick is to find one that best suits you and your programmers. A meaningful conversation based on a 1-on-1 meeting agenda template may also help you out in managing software teams effectively.
Here are some tips for better 1-on-1 meetings with your software developers:
1. Plan and structure properly
Don’t let your meeting be off-the-cuff. Plan and structure your one-on-one meetings in a professional yet friendly manner. To do that, you need to ask yourself a few questions: how long should it take? What kind of questions should I ask? How do I help the developer feel relaxed and participate in the meeting?
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There are also a few one-on-one meeting topics you might want to consider: how is Project X progressing? How can we make working on projects easier? How can I strengthen my communication pattern?
Write them down since you might need a reference point. Creating an agenda will help keep it simple and avoid unnecessary discussions.
Additionally, give your developer a chance to include a few points of discussion on the agenda. This will foster a sense of connection that allows both of you to participate in the meeting.
Use various tools to set up a meeting reminder, list your agenda, and manage it. For example, Microsoft Teams will send you a notification with a link to your meeting agenda, allowing you to add notes and send messages to the other participant.
Remember, good one-on-ones don’t just happen. You plan them accordingly.
2. Don’t cancel, but reschedule one-on-ones
Imagine this, a developer has probably spent the last three days eagerly waiting to have an important conversation with you, and then you cancel. It is highly likely that the programmer may feel how unimportant the business meeting was to you.
If something pressing comes up, reschedule it, so you can keep your 1-on-1.
3. Keep it short (but not too short)
Make the meetings short, frequent, and memorable. Remember, software engineering requires focus and long meetings take up much of the developers’ time, the time they can use to code. Usually, a 30-minute meeting might give you enough time to talk, discuss projects, and iron out any pending issues.
Wondering what the one-on-one meeting frequency should be? Well, once you start meeting, it’s best to do them regularly. This allows you to remain updated on the progress of projects while building a healthy working relationship.
Whether you meet weekly or opt for monthly one-on-one meetings with developers, make the best out of it. Ask relevant business-related questions and remember to leave some time for personal conversations, so you can get to know them better.
4. Talk about career development
It’s always good to know an engineer’s career goals. Some may feel they have achieved a level where they need to be promoted from mid-level software engineer to senior engineer, and this might be their best chance to air out their views.
Ask them what they need to enhance their career and how you, as their manager, can help them achieve that.
5. Take notes
Taking notes in meetings shows you are paying attention to every little detail. In your next meeting, the notes act as a guide when reviewing the last meeting’s agenda. It also prevents you from forgetting what was said in the meeting.
Building strong personal relationships through a one-on-one meeting agenda with software engineering team members needs thorough preparation. These meetings paint a clear picture of the developer’s experiences and career development goals. Even if you hire remote developers, you still need to keep in touch with them and develop a good relationship.
So how do you prepare for an effective meeting?
1. Review notes from your previous meeting. Your notes will provide you with an immediate reference point for agendas to discuss during the next one-on-one. This will also help you address any issues that need to be resolved before your next meeting. With time, you can check the progress of your meetings by reviewing these notes.
2. Know each other. Whether you are about to have your very first one-on-one meeting or it’s your fifteenth meeting, it’s always a good idea to get to know your developer well outside your 1-on-1.
Know what makes your software engineer tickle or become grumpy, or if there are any issues outside the office that you might help him with. It may be difficult to know everything in the 30-minute one-on-one meeting, but over time, you can easily develop a healthy working relationship with your dev team members.
The one-on-one meeting with your software developer should be an open discussion where you share information and ask questions.
If you are outgoing, you might be tempted to engage in small talk. As enjoyable as talking about last night’s football game is, it is good to leave such talks for the short breaks, or after the meeting is over.
Strive to stay on course and discuss topics that add value. You may revisit the same topics each time you have your one on ones. Get to know if the developer has had a change of mind, encountered something of interest since the last meeting, or had any notable developments.
Start your one on one meeting with a personal check-in. Understanding their personal feelings allows you to understand how best to help them balance both work and personal life.
If you focus too much on getting through a rigid agenda, then you might miss important signals of a software engineer who is not doing great.
Next, you need to find out the extent to which the developer is connected to the business. Is he the “Let me code and go home” type, or he is the kind of engineer that always strives to be a valuable asset to the company?
Questions like “Do you have any questions about the recent change involving Project X? What do you think about it?” may shed light on where your software developer stands regarding the company’s objectives.
One of the most important purposes of 1-on-1s is to discuss all the issues that can jeopardize developers’ performance, the improvement of the working environment, or the elimination of blockers.
What specific topics are discussed during one-on-ones?
At one-on-one, software engineers may talk about the things they are not ready to discuss with their PMs but do not mind discussing with other developers, as they may better understand their concerns.
These questions may relate to specific problems, misunderstandings with the customer (or project manager or another team member), or any technical issue that may affect the work process or results.
1-on-1s are also perfect for discussing the developer’s workflow. This meeting is where you can ask questions about the tasks you are working on, the area of
Are there any problems with the workload: do you have enough tasks, or do you work overtime often? Are you experiencing burnout? Do you feel like and have enough energy to work on extra tasks?
You can also discuss non-project activities during a one-on-one meeting and clarify whether engineers work on their Personal Development Plan (PDP), participate in non-core projects related to engagement, presentations, code review sessions, interviews, etc.
A one-on-one meeting is also a good chance to take on big strategic questions affecting the company as a whole. For example, you can discuss any upcoming process changes in your organization. This way, you can get feedback, ask for advice and clarify the ambiguities.
Also, you can discuss the learning curve of the programmer, taking into account the market situation, customer demands, and the company’s priorities.
Here’s a 1-on-1 meeting agenda template with questions to help you out and foster an active conversation:
It is rare that you will cover these questions in one meeting. Rather, select and group the questions according to what you want the meeting to achieve. These questions also work when you hire app developers and need to hold 1-on-1 meetings.
Hopefully, you have realized how easy it is to conduct meetings. Any manager can learn how to conduct a one-to-one meeting with a developer. You need to follow the one-on-one template for a manager, and you are good to go!
Below is a structure that can help you make the most out of your one-on-one meetings with your software engineer:
|What’s on top of my mind?||•||•|
|Things that went well?||•||•|
|Priorities until our next meeting||•||•|
|Challenges & Blockers||•||•|
|What’s on top of my mind?|
|Things that went well?|
|Priorities until our next meeting|
|Challenges & Blockers|
There is a practice of running one-on-one meetings on a regular basis, for example, once in two weeks or once a month. If you use such a formal approach, the meetings are tied to the date and added to the calendar, so they don’t overlap with other tasks or events.
At Relevant, we believe that it is better to choose a more flexible approach and run one-on-ones with developers when it is really needed.
Obviously, as a good leader, you should not forget to have regular conversations with your team members. But these meetings should be linked to particular situations and not to the dates.
While newbies who recently joined the team may be happy to talk and clarify all their questions, a software engineer, focused on the future release, wouldn’t like to be distracted by meetings.
Also, if you have a flexible approach, developers can initiate a 1-on-1 by themselves without waiting for a particular date or manager’s decision. Such a tool as 1-on-1 must be accessible to both sides, so you can easily use it when issues arise and not when the day of the meeting comes.
If there is a problem, it is better not to wait, but resolve it as soon as possible. And one-on-one meetings offer an excellent opportunity to do that.
So our approach is to have regular as well as spontaneous one-on-one meetings. If an engineer wants a meeting, it is enough reason to do it.
The advice mentioned above consists of general tips applicable to any organization. But here, you can find more specifics based on our team’s experience. They might be helpful too.
So how can you get the most from 1-on-1 meetings with software engineers?
Why should you bother with taking notes in the first place? Making notes is essential, especially if you are in charge of conducting 1-on-1s with many developers. Suppose this number reaches 10-20 people, it will be impossible to remember all the topics and who said what. So make notes and review them before carrying out the next meeting.
We hope we have provided valuable tips on how to run a successful 1-on-1 meeting with software engineers to ensure your team works productively. If you need a dedicated development team or want to outsource react development, we can help.
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