Engineering 1-on-1s: Ideas and topics to zhuzh it up!

Jul 06, 2021 | By Tovin Hudson

There are some common best practices for 1-on-1s that I often see pop up:

✅ Hold them regularly

✅ They're not for status updates

✅ If something comes up, try to reschedule instead of cancelling

✅ The 1-on-1 is for the employee, so they should own the agenda

If you have these foundational concepts on lock, but you find that you're still not feeling the ✨ magic ✨ of a good 1-on-1, here are a few things you can try.

Create a shared doc for your 1-on-1 📄

If you don't have one already, try using a simple shared doc in your 1-on-1s. I use a template like this:
Engineering 1-on-1 Shared Doc Template

I like it because...

  • It serves as a prompt for both parties to bring topics to the table

  • It can be useful to put a non-urgent topic on the agenda a few days ahead of a 1-on-1 to give a heads up

  • You can put a goal that you're tracking together in BIG BOLD FONT across the top so that you're both seeing it regularly

  • You can capture action items here in a common space to keep each other accountable

💡 Did you know that navigating to doc.new will spin you up a quick Google Doc?

Teach each other during your 1-on-1 🎓

For the weeks where it doesn't feel like there's a lot to discuss, consider using the time to learn from each other. I keep a list of concepts, articles and tools that have resonated with me in my career as an engineer. I've found 1-on-1s to be a great place to share those. If it's their first time hearing about a given concept, then they're one of the lucky 10,000 🎉 If they already know about the topic presented, then the foundation exists for a deeper discussion.

Many of our engineers at FloQast keep tabs on Thoughtworks' Technology Radar to stay up to date with industry trends. Dissecting one of these trends together can make for a really satisfying 1-on-1.

Declare victory! 🏆

1-on-1s are a great setting for sharing and recording victories -- big or small. Consider kicking off your 1-on-1s by having both parties share a win from the past week. As a bonus, if you capture these in a shared doc you slowly build up a great internal resume of accomplishments that can be useful for an annual review or a promotion discussion.

If your company has a list of values, you can select one value each week to discuss. Share examples of where the engineer is strong in this value. Talk through opportunities for the engineer to level up in the same value. Capture both in your shared doc!

You can do the same exercise with the attributes of a well-defined career path document.

Give thanks 🙏

I'm grateful for our engineers. I'm impressed daily by their talent and drive. A 1-on-1 is a great setting to give sincere thanks.

🙏 Thank them for sharing their talent with your company

🙏 Thank them for being reliable

🙏 Thank them for making work so enjoyable

It feels great to give and receive gratitude!

Conclusion

I hope you can use some of these ideas to zhuzh up your next 1-on-1!

Tovin Hudson
Tovin is an Engineering Manager at FloQast. He enjoys learning from others and taking care of his backyard chickens 🐓

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