1:1s: The art of mentoring

1:1’s: The art of mentoring

Note: this is written in a manager to manager style of communication. Do not skip this, though, if you are not a manager. Read the post with the intent to understand what a 1:1 is for. Maybe your boss wants to implement them, and you’re worried because you have never had one. Maybe your manager doesn’t do 1:1s, and you want to ask them to start. Figure out from this post how they would be beneficial to both of you.

For the managers: read this post with the intent to understand why 1:1s are beneficial. Figure out how you could start them, and help your directs. You are getting only one perspective, though. There are plenty more out there. There is also a link at the bottom of this post, to go to the original blog post, I read to start 1:1s with my directs.

1:1s or (1 on 1s) are a time for a manager and employees to have a chat about the future. The meeting should allow for the manager and employee to get to know each other, understand the strengths of the employee and what they want their future to be. Understand the employee’s goals, how they feel in the job, and what they feel their next steps are.

Some managers may use this time, to discuss current projects, assign new tasks, or just provide feedback on the employee. Though some of this time can be dedicated to these things, but only if they provide importance to the employee. This should be time for the employee to discuss things going on, and create a path. We shouldn’t take up the entire time with day to day things in the meeting.

Other managers, don’t see this as valuable. They use the excuses of they are too busy, or they have too many direct reports to do this. They also may just not know how to conduct a 1:1 so they don’t try. I’ll admit, the first one may be awkward. It may take some getting used to, but after that, you can start seeing benefits. When the employee knows that you care about their future, they will start doing all types of things. You can see a shift, and you will see they go out of their way to get things done, that may not even be tasks you would have thought they could do.

1:1s do not have to be an hour long, or even hours long. When I set up 1:1s for my new directs, I do book an hour, and for the first one or two, it will take that full hour. Then, as we progress through them, it seems to take less time. I can conduct most of my directs 1:1s now, in 30 minutes or less. You find a rhythm, and you both know what to expect in the meeting. There are standard questions I ask up front, and then we start digging into their goals, what they are working on, and how they are progressing in their goals.

When I first took over as IT Manager, I had some searching to do. I know I wanted to have a meaningful meeting with my directs, and that I needed to be a successful manager to get them motivated and to help them succeed. I went looking for ways to help and came across an article on 1:1s. I linked that article at the bottom of this blog post. I read the post, then listened to the accompanying podcast. It sounded like a good idea, but would it be accepted? Would the employee think I was trying too hard, or that it was weird? Honestly, the employees then, and all my future directs liked it. It gives them my undivided attention for the time being in this meeting. They can bring up anything they need to, and I know I need to go on and fix whatever needs to be fixed or think about ways to help them move forward.

Be prepared to have a meaningful conversation, though. Don’t go in for a half-assed meeting. Really pay attention to them, focus on what they are saying, and the feedback they are giving you. It may not always be good feedback, so really listen. Prepare prior to the meeting, by reading last 1:1s notes and make sure you have completed what needed to be done. Have feedback prepared for the employee as well. Document all 1:1 discussions, and then send the notes to the direct, so they can refer to them in the future
The questions I ask:

The questions I ask:
How is the position going?
Do you still like the position
How’s the workload
What goal do you want to focus on
Anything I can help you with
Any other feedback you have

Future meetings:
Above questions and
Is this still the goal you are pursuing
How are you progressing on your goal

Having 1:1s with your direct regularly helps with annual reviews as well. There should be no surprises on the annual review if you are giving your direct regular feedback. If you are letting them know where their strengths are, where they can strengthen, and other valuable feedback, the review should go fast and flawlessly. Waiting until the end of the year, to tell someone how they could have done something better or differently is no help to them. They feel like everything has been good since you haven’t said anything.

Because I am a feedback guy, I usually have different styles of feedback for my directs. Every month, at the end of the month, I email all the new hires for that month with a list of questions. I provide this feedback to the employee. I also pull reports out of our ticketing system, I provide this type of feedback to them. I also provide any feedback that I observed over the month. Then I provide feedback on their goals and give any advice I can to help them in the pursuit of their goals.

Below is a link you can go to, to check out information about 1:1s. Check it out and see if you can incorporate them and make the meetings meaningful for you and your direct.
Are you a manager and want to start 1;1s, check out this blog, it’s where I started: https://getlighthouse.com/blog/how-to-start-one-on-ones-your-teams/

Also a great podcast on one on ones and other great skills: https://www.manager-tools.com/manager-tools-basics


I hope this post was informative for you about 1:1s. Is your boss conducting 1:1s with you? If you are the boss, are you conducting 1:1s with your directs? If not, do you plan on running them or asking the boss for 1:1s? Let us know!

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