That day has finally come, you're now a tech lead and people tell you're supposed to schedule a 1:1 meeting with everyone, especially that quiet engineer that you barely know.
As the date approaches, your introspective mind suddenly started to ask yourself:
- What topics should you bring?
- Should you expect the other person to bring them? What if they don't?
- What if she thinks you're just wasting time?
Worst of all, what if the entire meeting is filled with the 'awkward silence'?
In Radical Candor book by Kim Scott, the author explains that to provide direct and effective constructive feedback you need to honestly care with the other person. And you can't care about a co-worker if you don't build a relationship.
So, this isn't (just) chit chat and you're not throwing away your company money. And you have to really be interested in other people's life stories, but don't need to be best friends.
These are questions I like to ask to get to know the other person. It also works as an 'awkward silence' breaker because people usually enjoy talking about themselves:
- What motivates you?
- What do you do after work?
- How come did you become a developer?
- Tell me about your family.
Worst case scenario: you've advanced one step further building rapport. That's a good thing.
On much contrary belief, software development isn't an exact science, so it has much more in common with writing than solving a math problem. That means there are infinite acceptable solutions an engineer can design for the same problem.
So there's no way to be 100% sure you're doing a great job (unless you're maybe overconfident), then impostor syndrome is always there asking if you're worth your salary. That's why it's essential to reinforce positive behaviors:
- The person may not know it's making some great contributions, and it's just doing the minimum acceptable to not be fired.
- You're giving the messages "I trust your job" and "I acknowledge your job".
Don't forget to include the results or the impact of that positive behavior, for example:
- The feature you were responsible for developing in the last sprint was developed faster than we've estimated and without bugs. That feature alone raised the conversion of our sign up form by 10%, impacting overall company results. Thank you for your effort.
Worst case scenario: you're just repeating something the person already knows. Well it doesn't hurt to hear positive feedback again, right?
When you least expect the meeting time is over and you've survived. Somehow you feel that was a good conversation and you're a bit closer to the other person. Congratulations!
In the end, I like to thank the other person for their time and when in doubt I usually ask one last question:
- Did you enjoy this 1:1? Can I schedule recurrently?
Thankfully no one until now answered "no", so I hope this article gives you a little more confidence for your next one-on-one!