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The 1-1 Agenda

Maintaining a effective and efficient agenda is important to get the best out of the 1-1 meetings you have with your team members.

We recorded a training about 1-1s which you can find here:

  1. Meetings should normally be 25 minutes long once a week. If needed increase the frequency.
  2. Create a Google doc and set the sharing settings exclusively between you and the team member. This should not be a public document because performance feedback should be as private as possible.
  3. Give the document two headers: 'Key Results' and 'Agenda' that each contain a numbered list.
  4. The Key Results for that report from the OKRs are the top of the document. This is the first thing to indicate that this is the focus and priority. Because we're a remote company there will be many small items on the agenda that in other environments would be handled throughout the week. It is important to periodically tell the report that the agenda should not be confused with the priorities. The Key Results is the only things that represents the priorities. The first business subject of every conversation should be the status of the top three priorities (the manager key results relevant to the report).
  5. Review the Key Results every two weeks (every other meeting), it is very important that people don't confuse the agenda with priorities.
  6. Use the following tags for each item on the agenda:
    1. TODO - report needs to set date of when this will be completed or just do the task, if we should discuss them report changes them to DISCUSS
    2. DOTO - manager needs to do something (case sensitive search for 'DO' finds all DOTO's and DONE's)
    3. FYI - informational, can be removed outside of the meeting by the person why did not put it on the agenda.
    4. ISO DATE (example: 2017-05-21 or 2017-05) - indicating when this item will be discussed next
    5. RELEASE NUMBER (example: 9.4 or 9.5) - alternative to ISO DATE to indicate when this item will be discussed next
    6. DISCUSS - cover in the next 1-1 meeting
    7. FEEDBACK - this is feedback about your performance (also means that all the other items are not performance feedback)
    8. REVIEW - there is a Merge Request (MR) or document that can be approved, the MR should not be a Work In Progress (WIP)
    9. DONE - to be removed by the person who put it on the agenda, only set this if any MR has been merged
    10. THANKS - mostly used by the manager to praise the report, these should not require a follow-up action. There is a tendency to focus on issues and challenges. Do not forget to recognize accomplishments and success.
    11. SORRY - if you want to say sorry for something.
    12. MOVE - if you want to move it outside of the agenda, for example an issue tracker.
    13. DUPLICATE - An item that is an outdated duplicate of another item on the agenda. To be removed similar to items marked as DONE.
    14. WONT - if you think this is no longer something that should be done.
    15. THINK - if the person who did not put it on the agenda wants time to think about it and discuss it next meeting.
  7. As specified above items are removed after being set to DONE. The 1-1 is one list that is continually modified. It is not a meeting agenda that is duplicated every week under a new date.
  8. Add items to the end of the agenda. This is easier to do when using a numbered list.
  9. The order going thought the agenda is last-to-first, this way things that are still top of mind get handled first.
  10. Prefix a new item with your name. Do the same for all responses/follow-ups.
  11. Use => to indicate a response/followup to an agenda item and prefix with your name. One example is at the bottom of this page and one is given here: DISCUSS Sid: Should we look into a collaboration with Walmart? => Kate: I think so, I created https://gitlab.com/gitlab-org/gitlab-ce/issues/101
  12. Use sub-bullets (a, b, c) if there sub topics .
  13. Include a link to the agenda in calendar invite of the 1-1 meeting
  14. Use comments with +mentions in Google Docs only to signal urgency, don't write content down that way since it tends to get lost. Example: +person@example.com urgent because xyz
  15. Link relevant issues, chats, screenshots, and Google Docs liberally.
  16. When you link to items don't use Google doc links but just paste the full url in the document. This makes it easier to quickly see what the link points to and makes it easy to copy paste.
  17. When you make a change link to diff or merge request instead of new content itself, this makes it easier to see what the change was.
  18. Both parties add items to the agenda. Preferably, the majority added by the team member. If the manager puts more than half of the items on the agenda this is an indication that something is wrong.
  19. From High Output Management (edited sightly for language):
    1. “A key point about a one-on-one: it should be regarded as the reports’s meeting, with its agenda and tone set by them … issues that preoccupy and nag the subordinate.”
    2. How often you should have 1-1 meetings: "The answer is the job- or task-relevant maturity of each of your subordinates. In other words, how much experience does a given report have with the specific task at hand?…the most effective management style instance varies from very close to very loose supervision as a report’s task maturity increases."
  20. Bill Campbell, executive coach to top executives at Google, had a suggested approach to the 1-1. Instead of leaving the conversation open, he required both the manager and the team member to bring a list of 5 things to discuss. At the start of the meeting, they would match lists and talk about whatever is on both lists first. After that, they would spend time on 4 topics – performance on job requirements, relationships with peer teams, leadership and innovation.
  21. If you have negative or positive feedback give it right away rather than waiting for the 1:1. However, make sure bi-directional feedback is given at least as often as the 1:1 meeting. The face to face 1:1 is also useful for feedback that the person may be especially sensitive too, or is being given for the second time and needs to be taken more seriously.
  22. It’s important not to push times of the 1:1’s or cancel them for “more important” tasks calls. Book them and ensure you always are on time.
  23. One communication style does not fit all. Some need very direct feedback. Others work better with FYI style information to then come to the conclusion you want them to come to on their own. Others work well with clear goals, but without a clear prescription as to how to reach the goal. Great managers can adapt their style to the report.
  24. It is common to start with a bit of small talk. You can also consider starting with asking how are you as a person?
  25. The end of the meeting is a good time to ask questions people might be hesitant to answer. People will often reveal their important information at the end of a conversation. Use this to get information about things that are bothering them about other people in the company, including you as a manager. Ask a question like 'How can I make your life better?' or 'How’s the team and the work with other people?'. Don't put this question on the agenda in advance. Since it is the end of the meeting it might be needed to add it to the agenda to discuss in the next meeting.
  26. Setting and managing expectations is maybe your most important task. Both the managers expectations of the work done by the report and the reports expectations about the work and company.
  27. Reports tend to assume that they must do everything added by the manager, make it clear that they can push back (not a good idea, not worth the time), and redirect (please handle it directly with this person, can you arrange for this). You want to prevent the agenda piling up. The manager will put items on the agenda because it is in the functional area of the report and the manager doesn't want to bypass them. But in case the manager cares about something and the report doesn't it might be preferable for the manager (or an executive assistant) to do the work.
  28. If you have few items on the agenda from the report try the following questions:
    • Is there anything that needs clarity?
    • What are you most proud of/excited about?
    • What can I (your manager) improve on?
    • Anything you think important that happened since the last 1-1
    • What are potential troubles you see for the team
    • What are potential troubles you see for the company
    • What went well last week?
    • What went not so well last week?
    • Is there anything I can do to help?
    • Anything non-work related worth mentioning?
    • When x happened, what will you do differently next time?
    • Have you identified any career development opportunities that I can help you with?

Example agenda item:


Career Development Discussion at the 1-1

We recorded a training about career mapping which you can find here:

These discussions should take place once a month and after the 360 Feedback meeting has taken place. As a manager of people you play a crucial part in developing careers for your reports. This is for them but you should be able to support this process and help them achieve their goals. This is a join collaboration so prior to the meeting think about what questions to ask, specifically identifying competencies(c),skill gaps(sg) and career objectives (co). Adrienne Smith who wrote increase employee retention with career pathing suggests the following:

  1. Which projects are you most proud of that you’ve finished here? (c)
  2. What is your favorite part of your job? (c)
  3. Which projects have you struggled with most in this role? (sg)
  4. What’s your least favorite part of your day-to-day? (sg)
  5. When do you ask for help most often? (sg)
  6. What parts of your role do you want to do more of? Less of? (co)
  7. What don’t you do in your current role that you’d like to? (co)
  8. What would you like to learn next? (co)

Once you have established the goals you can then create a career development plan

Key Points

  1. Actively Listen. Self-assessment is difficult and people often overestimate or underestimate their skillset. Don’t be quick to discount their assessment. Look for common ground and focus on understanding their overall goals.

  2. Control. Maintain control of the conversation to ensure it stays on track. The focus should be on their current skillset and abilities and how to cultivate those for a career path within the company.

  3. Adaptation. Adapting your approach to different personality types is key. People that overestimate their skillsets should be given specifics on where they do, and don’t, meet expectations. They may need areas of failing to be pointed out more plainly (but always caringly). Those that underestimate their skillset may need more emphasis on what they are doing right as they tend to focus on the negative. Also, not everyone wants to advance. Some are very happy in the role they are in and want to stay there. That should also be supported.