Thanks to the very generous work of Kim Scott and her book on Radical Candor we have adopted one-on-ones as the means by which we build meaningful relationships across the company. Having a process to help make this happen is especially important for us given the virtual nature of how we work.
Our one-on-one’s follow a weekly cadence. A regularly scheduled weekly meeting between a Team Leader and each Member of their team. To make sure it isn’t rushed an hour is set aside for the discussion and if there is little to discuss and the meeting wraps up in less time so be it.
Both parties need to clear their schedules, and their minds, and come prepared. This is especially true for the Team Member as they need to be driving the meeting. They set the agenda, not the Leader and with that in mind they do the majority of the talking beginning with providing feedback for their Leader. How can their Leader improve? What could their Leader do more of? Less of? To make it easier to work with them, and with the company? It is very important that the Team Member proactively thinks about this and comes prepared to offer guidance for their Leader. It’s okay to not have anything to offer for a meeting or two - but it shouldn’t be the norm.
Next up the Team Member reviews what worked well over the last week and conversely what didn’t? The Leader is there to listen and learn first and foremost, and then secondarily offer advice and help where appropriate. What’s going right that the Leader can help amplify or build upon? What isn’t working well for the Team Member that the Leader can provide guidance on, find resources to help with, and if done right, turn a something from not working well this week into something that is on the agenda for what worked well in the following week.
Further the Member and the Leader need to discuss what needs to be learned. What as a company do we need to be educating ourselves on and what part of that education has the Team Member taken the lead on and is currently working through? Or is considering to take on in the near term?
In line with what we need to learn is what have we learned from our customers? What insight have we learned from a conversation with a user of our products and services this week? If the person is client facing by the nature of their role, or a product owner or designer, the discussion should come from a conversation that took place between them and the customer. Yes, product owners and designers need to be talking to customers in some form or another every week. And if the person doesn’t hold any of these roles then they should be talking to those that do and have an insight about our customers from those discussions.
Additionally the Team Member and Team Leader need to have a shared understanding as to what the Team Member’s career plans entail. Is the Team Member happy with their current role and do they want to continue to focus on it? Or, do they want to take on a new challenge and if so have both of you articulated what that could be and the possible path to be taken to achieve it? If the path is defined and agreed upon then it is very likely a quick acknowledgement of just that, with possibly a few minor clarifications along the way, and if it is currently undefined then it should be a source of discussion each week until both the Leader, and the Member, have a complete understanding of where the Member is at and what they want to do next, if anything.
If the Member is a Leader of their team the discussion is expanded to include how one-on-one’s are going, what are they delegating down, career plans for their team members, and what learning each Member is pursuing.
And then of course whatever other open discussion items, including key performance indicator results, epic updates, and any other points that the Leader and Member want to review need to be worked through to take maximum advantage of this focussed time together.
All of the above is noted by the Team Member and summarized in a Google Doc between the Leader and Member. Not minutes of the meetings. Just simple point form notes to make sure the key points are covered and any items to be carried forward aren’t overlooked from one week to the next. A typical document outline includes each of the above discussion items;
What can I do more of? Less of? To make working with me and the company easier.
What worked well this week?
What customer insight have you learned this week?
If you want to, and only if you want to, what role would you like to take on next?
(if a Team Leader) How are one-on-ones working with your Team Members?
(if a Team Leader) What are you delegating down to build the farm team?
(if a Team Leader) Do your Team Members want to take on different roles next? And if they do, what are they?
(If a Team Leader) What learning is each Member pursuing.
Open discussion items?