Top 5 Tips for Software Development Managers To Conduct Effective 1 on 1s With Your Reports

 



In 2020, software development is one of the major industries which provides millions of jobs. And also this is one of the industry where there are various types of employment such as:

  • Full-time jobs
  • Contract jobs
  • Freelancing jobs
  • Part-time jobs
  • Remote jobs

In fact, if you look at the statistics, this industry is poised to grow even further. According to Slashdata, it's expected to reach 45 million developers by 2030.

Year
Number of Software Developers in millions
2018
23.9
2019
26.4
2023
27.7
2024
28.7
2030
45

One of the main problems for this industry is having the workforce motivated enough to do extraordinary work and amazing work. The reason I say this is those software developers when they put their heart and soul into the work, they can change worlds and build really impactful things like Google Maps (that came out of a hobby project in Google), Slack (was built as an internal tool). There are many such examples from our history. But to keep them occupied and make them bend the universe, we need really good managers who are not only encouraging but also great at identifying the problems and coming up with solutions for their reports.

I am going to talk about one of the important aspects of managing a group of software developers - 1 on 1s. 1 on 1s are meetings between their managers and their reports in which both the parties share their thoughts, ideas, and concerns. Most organizations have these meetings regularly. But some of the organizations do not have a culture of such meetings. If your organization is one of them, pls ensure that you have a word with your boss/manager and create a regular 1 on 1 meeting setup.

As a manager, it's your responsibility that 1 on 1s are effective and help your reports. I want to talk about a few of the things that make this process really effective.

Always Schedule A Meeting

Meetings that are not in the calendar do not usually happen and those meetings are ad-hoc and don't have the advantages of having the meeting scheduled prior. Some of the advantages of having prior scheduled meetings:

  • Both of them are aware when the meeting will happen and how long so that they can plan their actual work around it
  • Planned meetings have an option to have an agenda
  • Scheduled meetings are better to ensure that the reports have their fair share of time with their busy managers

Bonus: Always have a repeating event so that you can meet with your reports very regularly.

Have an Agenda

Most of the 1 on 1s do not have an agenda. The data I surveyed, showed that folks talked about the recent activities that happened a few days or weeks ago and miss out on the larger and more important issues. The best advice I can give you is to have a running journal for each one of your reports and note down points during daily work if certain things need to be discussed in your regular 1 on 1s. I would also suggest that if the issues are important, it's better to schedule a meeting as soon as possible and discuss them. The agenda is key to a productive meeting.

Talk about Career Plans

Your 1 on 1s need not be about the work that you are doing immediately. It can also be about the person's career and where she/he wants to go in a few years. It's better to discuss these very early on and have further discussions on these lines. As their manager, you should know the answer to these questions:

  • What do they want to do with their career in 1,2,3,5 years
  • What is their most important interest when it comes to software development
  • What areas should they improve to match their 5-year career plan
  • What is the best plan of action for each individual based on their learning capacity and skillset

So your meetings are supposed to help them come up with a career plan and help them guide there.

Do not convert your 1 on 1s into Status Updates

Most managers do this mistake and the regular one on one meetings become status update meetings. It shouldn't be this way. You can always come to know of the status updates via various means, but 1 on 1 is a kind of sacred time. Talk about their aspirations, career plans, and more. It's never a good time to discuss status updates and if this is happening frequently, the problem is somewhere else. You need to figure out a solution for making status updates happening seamlessly and without obstacles. May be more effective standups?

Have a list of Action Items after the meeting

Meetings without action items are equal to not having the meeting. Any meeting where serious issues were discussed will have a few action items that need to be done over the next couple of days/weeks/months. It's better to write them down and assign them to the respective owners. Managers can also have action items. So it's better to write them down and leave an email stating them. It also becomes easier for you to follow up once the meetings are over and the time for the next scheduled meeting comes along (can also be thought as goals till the next meet)

Longer meetings are good, but reschedule if necessary

Sometimes the meetings can go for a longer time than scheduled due to many reasons. From what I have understood, though these may look at that time to be really good, it may have other known impacts. It's always better to schedule follow up meetings and continue the discussions further on. This helps both the parties to understand more and come back with more prepared thoughts for further discussions.

These are my precious thoughts about 1 on 1s and I encourage all engineering leaders to incorporate these in their work. Share with me about your thoughts and experiences regarding 1 on 1s.

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