Connecting the Dots: Why You Need One-on-Ones

· 5 min read
Connecting the Dots: Why You Need One-on-Ones

When managers invest in quality one-on-one time, projects run better, developers feel supported, and people stick around longer. Regularly connecting with the team is extremely important for the success of any development team.

The thick silence of my apartment was interrupted only by the ticking of the wall clock. I swiveled nervously in my chair, awaiting the start of my first one-on-one meeting with Ben, a manager at a UK company that hired me recently. Though we worked remotely, he has been warm and welcoming during the hiring process over Zoom.

“I like to sync up weekly with new team members,” he’d emphasized. “It’s so important to feel connected when working remotely!”

His words echoed through my mind as I reviewed my list of questions. My dog Misha, a stray I picked up just a year ago near my house, snorted in his sleep on the rug nearby. This job was exciting — I was used to working primarily with startups, and it was an opportunity to see how things are getting done in a big company. I wanted to prove myself.

By the time Monday rolled around, my leg was bouncing with anticipation. After an hour with no sign of Ben, I sent an email checking in. A quick reply appeared — “So crazy today! Let’s reschedule for next week.” My heart sank.

Over the next few weeks, I was adrift in confusion as Ben’s excuses piled up. Maybe I was just a box he had to check off rather than a valuable team member? I often worked late into the night, searching for clues on the company wiki and chat channels. Without our meetings, I felt disconnected from everything happening at headquarters thousands of miles away.

Soon, a month had gone by with no check-ins. Misha’s snores and the click of my keyboard became the soundtrack to my frustration. Since Ben refused to invest any time in me, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I opened Google Calendar and scheduled time on his calendar myself. Waiting patiently was getting me nowhere.

As I confirmed the meeting request, my hands shook slightly. But I couldn’t back down now. I needed clarity about expectations, and my dog certainly wasn’t providing it. This video call could be my only chance to get the guidance I needed before I completely spiraled. With a deep breath, I clicked “Send.” Now, I could only hope that Ben would finally answer my distress call.

Ben couldn’t find time for a meeting for another month. Then, out of the blue, the company’s CEO decided to let me go — it turned out that the tasks I was working on weren’t that important, and even the things I did were done differently from what the CEO wanted. But without clear communication, there was no way for me to know this. All that could have been easily solved with regular calls with the manager.

The Importance of One-on-One Meetings

Regular one-on-one meetings between managers and team members are a big deal in software development. These private conversations have tremendous benefits that help team members stay on track and grow, and teams thrive.

Understanding Performance and Goals

One-on-ones let managers check in on work and goals. It’s a chance to clear up any confusion around projects. Team members can share wins, ask for help, and ensure they focus on the right stuff. These chats are necessary for managers to be in the loop about day-to-day work.

Problems can snowball fast when something starts to go wrong. People might feel lost if they can’t regularly check priorities and get feedback. Say a dev spends a week on the wrong approach because requirements were muddy (which they often are). That delay could have been caught early.

Weekly or biweekly one-on-ones let everyone stay on the same page so managers can fix issues before they grow into big problems.

Encouraging Open Communication

These private meetings let people be themselves, bringing up concerns or ideas they wouldn’t bring up on group calls. Without a judgment-free zone, team members may hold back questions that impact their work. Chances are they will bite their tongues instead of offering feedback. As a result, people get frustrated, distrustful, and even quit over time.

Take an introvert who hates the team’s new time-tracking tool. He probably won’t speak up during a stand-up call. But he could tell the manager one-on-one that the tool doesn’t work.

Meetings give managers insight into how people really think and feel. Team members know they have a voice, and managers can build on the strength of listening to it.

Strengthening the Working Relationship

Regular one-on-ones build trust and understanding between the manager and a team member. Without quality time together, the relationship stays all business, missing context about what motivates people and how they like to work.

Say a dev keeps writing clumsy code that is impossible for others to review but which solves the problems no one else can. One-on-ones could reveal that dev thrives with creative freedom, not strict requirements. A manager can then help the dev find a balance between creativity and turning the life of their peers into a code review nightmare.

Meetings provide insight to collaborate better. Managers who know intrinsic motivations and can match projects accordingly and team members feel their boss cares, giving their all.

Providing Feedback and Direction

Managers should give regular feedback tied to goals and expectations. Without ongoing feedback, issues slowly pile up until annual reviews and small misalignments become bad habits.

Imagine a team member consistently delivering late. By the time he gets formal feedback, the lateness is baked in. A manager can use one-on-ones to praise good things frequently while also kindly but directly addressing problems before they worsen. This keeps the whole team on track.

Maximizing Value

Consistency and preparation are key for every meeting. Do one-on-one sessions weekly or biweekly and come ready with talking points on work, hurdles, and skills to grow.

Avoid skipping meetings or winging it. Like Ben, a manager who initially canceled or rescheduled meetings I told you about, you’ll be signaling that other things are more important than you.

Regular meetings show this is a priority for everyone, and agendas will keep the calls productive. Prep on both sides demonstrates a commitment to quality time together.

At the end of the day, regular one-on-one meetings between managers and team members are just plain crucial for success in software development. These private conversations aren’t just another meeting on the calendar — they’re precious opportunities for folks to connect.

Managers get insight into team members’ goals, struggles, and wins. They can provide feedback to nip issues in the bud before they spin out of control. Team members feel heard and supported, avoiding that soul-sucking frustration and burnout.

Projects go much smoother when managers carve out quality time for their people. It’s like magic! Strong connections build trust and help managers understand what makes each person tick. With that understanding, they can better match up projects to play to people’s strengths.

So don’t just phone it in and wing these chats! Come prepared and make them a true priority, never cancelling without a dang good reason.

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