qwertyCoder in  
Software Engineer at Amazon 

What do you talk about in 1:1's?

Saw this question come up a few times recently in conversations. What do you talk about in 1:1's? How do you make best use of it?

Some tips I've gathered:

  • Having a clear agenda for the meeting and being prepared is important for making the 1:1s successful. Some of the questions that people suggest asking include: how the person is doing, what skills they are trying to improve, how the manager or company can help with skill improvement, and whether the person's responsibilities align with their personal goals.
  • Some people find value in discussing pending organizational changes, strategic initiatives, and personal/professional gripes.
  • It's okay to skip 1:1s if there's nothing to talk about. It's more important to have a standing meeting that can be used to bring up "serious things" when necessary.
  • Some people find the 1:1 to be a good opportunity to discuss what they are working on, blockers, etc.
  • There are different opinions on whether 1:1s are the right time to discuss updates that could also be covered in a daily/biweekly/weekly check-ins. Some people think that these updates do not warrant a 1-on-1, while others find it easier to discuss them in person rather than over email.
bcnecoProgram Manager  
My most productive 1:1's (as an IC) have been with managers who use the time specifically for me as an employee. What I mean by that is that they spend time to focus on my professional development, improving my skills, talking and working through weaknesses, and most importantly, goal setting. Now, there are definitely times where work-specific stuff has to come up. Updates on projects, blockers, etc. Especially since a lot of professional development stuff isn't going to be a week-to-week or bi-week to bi-week updates. In any case, I think goal setting is the most important part of the 1:1. Too many managers I've had lead 1:1s with just updates or talk about 'yeah we can try to get you to promo,' but without any actionable targets or goals, I always left those meetings feeling like they weren't worth anything.