Deconstructing Manager One on Ones

Rands in Repose has done a great series on Deconstructing Managers recently where he touches on one-on-ones.

Managers who don’t have a plan to regularly talk to everyone on their team are deluded. They believe they are going to learn what is going on in their group through some magical organizational osmosis and they won’t. Ideas will not be discovered, talent will be ignored, and the team will slowly begin to believe what they think does not matter… and the team is the company.

Stronger terms than I’d probably use, but after about 5 months now doing weekly one-on-ones with 8 direct reports I’m not about to stop doing them. I still learn things every week that I used to think I’d pick up on.

I sit in a cube in the midst of most of my team with the exception of a few who are collocated on another project in another building. I often don’t find out how frustrated someone is with a particular technology problem or political issue until the one-on-ones. As everyone’s gotten more comfortable with them they’ve been able to explain why they’re frustrated and I can attempt to solve the problem.

Another thing I’ve noticed is several developers are realizing they can bring up questions around architecture and design in the one-on-ones and get my feedback. We’ve started to do more whiteboarding around how we’re architecting some of our web applications. That way they can check out their approaches on at least a weekly basis with someone outside the project team.

If you’re still debating getting started just do it. I stalled for at least a year after I ran across the idea of weekly one-on-ones.