Despite the tech-heavy nature of software engineering, there’s still much to be said about proper in-person, one-on-one meetings. In fact, there’s research to show that these personal meetings are far more effective than like-minded conversations carried out over, say, email or Slack. However, that’s if they’re done correctly.

Poorly conducted one-on-ones are still the bane of anyone's existence. Few things'll make you gnash your teeth harder than having to sit through an uncomfortable—and, likely, haphazardly prepared evaluation or individual meeting. However, if you can crack the code (no pun intended), these interpersonal manager-to-team-member meetings are indispensable.

Keen on seeing how (and why) you should perform regular one-on-ones with your team? Well, we’ve done a great deal of the legwork for you, sifting out techniques to use, what to include and reasons why one-on-one meetings with your engineering teams are so valuable.

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Photo by Daria Nepriakhina / Unsplash

They Serve as a Place for Honest, Immediate Dialogue

It’s all too easy to edit an email to convey a feeling, sentiment, etc. that’s not exactly in line with how you feel. This editability, however, is virtually impossible to do face-to-face.

By creating an atmosphere of honesty and openness, you’re able to speak to your team members directly. You don’t have to shroud your opinions, feedback, etc. in elaborate, adverb-heavy sentences via text; you can say what you mean, up front. Also, the same goes for the engineers in your team. They, in return, feel like they can give constructive feedback, be it from a coding standpoint or a leadership one.

As studies show when colleagues believe that everyone on the team is honest with one another, their team outperforms those that don’t share the same sentiment regarding their coworkers. Consider doing the following to help foster and build a more honest and open workplace, which will help in your 1:1s:

  • Allow everyone equal time to speak in meetings, not allowing any one person or leader to “run” them
  • Let employees know they’re expected to make mistakes, but it’s how they handle them that matters above anything else
  • Set clear boundaries that allow employees not to take too much work home
  • Have open company-wide conversations on what’s working well, and what’s not
  • Use one-on-ones as tools to help instill a sense of morale and camaraderie in the workplace

They’re Best Scheduled in Advance, Not Randomly Performed

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Photo by Eric Rothermel / Unsplash

To make sure your one-on-ones go over without a hitch, schedule them in advance. So once you do, don't cancel unless something tragic or urgent comes to the surface. The team member you're meeting with has likely prepared well in advance for it, blocked off extra time in their schedule, and perhaps has gone through other logistical hoops to accommodate you.

The same thing can be said about being late. Punctuality, regardless of whether it pertains to a meeting or deadline, is key to fostering a loyal, productive team.

Including Data and Metrics in your One-on-One Blueprint

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Photo by Miguel A. Amutio / Unsplash

Creating a blueprint for your one-on-one meetings with your engineering teams will allow you to be prepared and make sure you cover all the vital information. Making sure you include the right data and metrics to discuss with each team member is an integral step in ensuring you are making the most of the allotted time and maximizing the effectiveness of the one-on-one meeting. Need help figuring out what that exact blueprint might entail? Here’s a hand one-on-one template for you to reference. Some great measurements you can use are:

Adherence to Best Practices: Keeping track of team members’ adherence to best practices is a good way to make sure projects aren’t derailed due to inconsistent processes. You can discuss any anomalies regarding the team member’s best practice adherence in their one-on-one meeting, or get their opinion on ways to improve the processes. These sessions are a great opportunity for team members to voice where they are frustrated with processes. Building out a standard best practice system for your team based on what’s important to your build, and having them agreed upon by team members, is vital to this step.

Code Churn and Ownership: One of the area’s one-on-one meetings can shed light on is context around code churn. These 1:1 sessions allow you to review why an engineer overwrote the code shortly after being written (within three weeks of writing it), as well other code that has been edited by other contributors. By gathering both individual and group metrics and the context around code churn, you can then see how to streamline the process. This can save both time and resources from writing unneeded code due to unclear feature or build goals, mis-assigned tasks, and other areas.

Code Retention: Having a reasonable rate of code retention is crucial to see a project or maintenance task to the finish line. Use one-on-ones as a direct tool to help you hone in on the context of code retention, whether the retention across the team or an individual is high or low. By doing this in a one-on-one, it provides a safe space for your team member to give you feedback on struggles or wins that they may have had. This transparency might not happen in a group setting. In addition, you’ll be better prepared to see code retention take a hit or barely move, and be able to communicate this with other stakeholders, and possibly pair up team members who are strong and weak in these types of projects.

Use One-on-Ones to Give (and Gather) Qualitative Feedback

At the end of it all, one-on-ones are, first and foremost, avenues to deliver concise, qualitative feedback.

This personal, face-to-face time instills a sense of dedication, consistency, and most of all, understanding on topics discussed during the meeting. Because of this, one-on-ones offer a great opportunity to gather both quantifiable and objective feedback—from both parties involved—which should be of the utmost importance.

Consider using a tool like Gitalytics to help chart and keep track of how your team members behave over time through the use of data and metrics. Gitalytics not only gives you the metrics to understand your team’s work patterns, but proactively improve it.

The Bottom Line: Wield the Power of One-on-Ones and Data to Your Advantage

It should be blatantly clear by now that one-on-ones, when both performed correctly and followed with the appropriate data tracking, are invaluable to engineering teams. They’re capable of boosting everything from individual employee morale to team-wide performance metrics and much more. And using a tool like Gitalytics will help you have insights before and after your upcoming one-on-ones

So, go ahead, start scheduling those individual team member meetings. Just make sure you’re ready to listen and come with a blueprint to boot.

Gitalyitcs is a platform to aid software managers and leaders understand, engage, and optimize the engineering talent on their respective teams. Feel free to get in contact with us today.

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