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1:1 basics for the introvert Engineering Manager

1:1 basics for the introvert Engineering Manager

i.e. how to use more emotions than code, for people who use more code than emotions

Oren Ellenbogen

March 28, 2017

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  1. 1:1 basics for the introvert Engineering Manager @orenellenbogen i.e. how

    to use more emotions than code, for people who use more code than emotions
  2. @orenellenbogen VP Engineering at on Also the behind http://softwareleadweekly.com &

    http://leadingsnowflakes.coom About me? Until recently, 17 bi-weekly 1:1s (flat eng. org)
  3. AXIOMS [1] People deserve great 1:1s. [2] This is one

    of your best ways to provide value (“unfair advantage”). [3] This is one of the best ways to build long-lasting trust.
  4. Agenda Providing a mental framework for running effective 1:1s: -

    Purpose - Preparing for 1:1s - The 1st 1:1 - Strategic growth - Pitfalls - Is it working? - Moooar!! (resources)
  5. FOCUS I will focus around mindset and healthy habits. “Which

    questions should I ask” has good coverage too (links at the end J)
  6. Purpose (Why 1:1?) • Building trust around mutual goals (company

    > team > individual) • Mentor: growth is a side-product, hyper-growth needs intentional practice • How is work being done? How do they feel about that? (versus “What are you working on?”) • Leverage peer pressure (i.e. standards) to build a cohesive team • Providing honest feedback (killing any passive-aggressive tension)
  7. Strategy • Context: company’s goals, team’s goals, your goals, their

    goals. • Draft: Can you explain where they fit into the big plan, or at least start a discussion around it? Write all the things down. Share it with them early on, let them help drafting it.
  8. Tactics • Scheduling time • Meeting description • Getting ready

    for the meeting • Summarizing 1:1 notes (+ utilize)
  9. Calendar • 30 minutes. Bi-weekly. • 45 minutes? Weekly? •

    Block 15 minutes after. • e.g. 11:00-11:30, next meeting at 11:45. • Meeting description should include previous Performance Review’s goals (reminder of growth).
  10. Getting ready (my trigger Qs) • Any relevant follow up

    on previous notes? • Any great achievement made since last 1:1? • Any improvement of their system understanding? • Any improvement of their code/design quality? • How many features they run in parallel now? How can they reduce it? How can you help? • How do they communicate progress? Are they active or you need to “pull” it from them? Talk about the importance of having them leading. It can be within feature or their weekly planning. • Do you feel they lack context? Do they understand why they are doing what they’re doing? Did they ask good questions? • Are they saying “NO!” enough times? Can you help them define when they should say no?
  11. Trigger questions You can do better though: Check the resources

    at the end of the slides and write down the questions you liked. Make it yours.
  12. Taking notes • Aim for TL;DR version, with clear action

    items in it. Include only must-have context for it. • Aim for them to take lead, but you should start to show structure & language. • Gmail: one-on-one à [name] labels
  13. 100% explicit & honest It will be awkward, get over

    it & embrace it. Start with “well, that’s kind of awkward, right? It’s our first 1:1 and I want us to make the most of it, so if you’re okay with it, I did prepare some questions [...]”
  14. Then… • How often would you like to do our

    1:1s based on previous experience? • What makes 1:1s valuable for you? • Can you share what worked well before so I could try to keep it? • What was missing that you hope I could add? • How would you like me to provide you with constructive feedback? (e.g. Slack? Email? Face-to-face?)
  15. Areas of growth • Code quality • Architecture + Design

    Reviews • Reaching consensus • Project Management • Communication • Time management • Delegating work • Working well with others (lead with strength, compensate for weakness) • Career Path++ (à Architect, co- founder, EM, CTO etc.)
  16. 1:1s to provide context & expectations • Raise a mutual

    goal and explain an opportunity (them à company à team à them) • This is where you could set clear and explicit expectations: Behaviors, outcome, where to focus, pitfalls etc. (concrete examples to follow)
  17. Leverage opportunities & let them practice • Join someone else

    to see them leading Design Review à prod • Lead a feature • Lead an infra change (cross-teams) • Communicate with peers, PM & management (build org trust) • Become a service chief/owner • Lead a project …
  18. Example: Junior Engineer wants to level up • Which books

    to read? • How to ask “good questions” & when? • How to learn from others (e.g. follow up on learnings) • How to measure “good pull request” • Who you should work with & why • How to measure “good code”
  19. Example: Senior Engineer during onboarding • Focusing on understanding the

    business and the system (context) • Reduce fear of “proving value” • Who they should work with & why • Make their strength explicit (both sides) • Building trust with their teammates
  20. Example: IC wants to be EM as new career path

    • Being positive & driving momentum towards quick valuable releases • Improving their Project Management skills (so they can teach later) • Mastering communication with peers & management (status, risks) • Figuring out if they enjoy interactions with others, and making others better (vs code)
  21. Example: Senior Engineer wants to be an Architect/Principal • Understand

    the business lifecycle and what moves the needle • Being positive (we can do X, versus “this is not the way to…”) • Explain tradeoffs vs making a decision or “trying to win” • Building relationships, so they could technically amplify team • Building a network outside of work
  22. Pitfalls & tips Agree on an escalation policy in advance,

    so 1:1s will be around growth rather than putting out immediate fires.
  23. Pitfalls & tips • 1:1s should not be status meetings.

    It’s easy to go there, so be careful. Prefer to focus on “How they feel about the work” rather than “What they’re working on”. • You can schedule a “status meeting” if this is needed, or agree on a different method for that purpose. Status meeting is a “1:1 smell”. It often happens as you’re not prepared to lead it.
  24. Pitfalls & tips • If you need to move your

    1:1, set it to the earliest time available that protects preferences on both sides. For example, you might want to have 1:1s at 14:00, as people feel less productive then. If you need to move, move it to 14:00 the next day. Avoid moving it later that day as you might impact (their) productivity. • Also, verify & notify on Slack. Say you’re sorry and why it needs to move. This shouldn’t happen often.
  25. Pitfalls & tips No, you don’t have to solve their

    problems. Not at first. Learn to ask more questions: “Can you explain more?” “Do you have any thoughts about how to handle it?” “Do you need my help here? How?”
  26. Pitfalls & tips Small talk is important, but not sufficient

    for hyper-growth. Building trust works if you invest time, empathy and effort where it really matters to both sides. Knowing their “personal story” is nice to have. It’s not an indicator for high trust.
  27. • They tell you it’s helpful • They feel motivated

    to push themselves harder, i.e. energy++ • They have clearer understanding of their role (fit the puzzle) • They understand what is expected from them (alignment) You should explicitly ask for the above every now and then.
  28. Resources • Questions for our first 1:1 • The Art

    of the Awkward 1:1 • On 1:1s • Peer 1:1s • How to have an honest 1:1 with an employee • 101 Questions to Ask in One on Ones • What's next?