#70 - 18 June 2021
One-on-one vents; the great job migration; always be quitting
I’m back and refreshed from my mini-break from the newsletter; there’s a lot of optimism in the air here as COVID-19 numbers continue to drop and projects are moving forwards.
I don’t have a lot else to add right now, so let’s go straight to the roundup!
A couple good articles on one-on-ones from a a couple of weeks ago.
In the first, Kim offers five pieces of advice around vents. In particular, vents aren’t about problem solving, they’re about letting something out - and that something has been festering for a while. So Kim’s advice is:
Don’t rationalize, and definitely don’t interrupt
Don’t assume — ask
Don’t take a stance (you’re only hearing one side of things), but don’t be afraid to have opinions
Try to end on a positive note
See if you need to follow-up
In particular sometimes just letting something out is enough - but sometimes it’s raising something that needs to be addressed in future discussions.
In Longworth’s article, she talks about her formula for one-on-ones:
Her first question is always “What’s the most important thing we talk about today?”
After having the team member lead the discussion for a while, she addresses follow ups from previous meetings/things that came up this week.
Asks about the team member’s wins for week, and worries
Gives any org updates - this can be really tricky to do in one-on-ones and in my opinion is best handled in staff meetings
Any time at the end gets filled with Weird Manager Questions; she asks if she can ask a weird manager question and then asks one of these:
Think about how you spend your time at work. Divide this sticky note/whiteboard square/drawing doc into the different things you do. Are these the right amounts of time you should/want to be spending on each of these? What would an ideal distribution of your time look like?”
“What ways can we show you we appreciate what you do?”
“Using Paloma Medina’s BICEPS framework, how are you doing across each of your core needs?” I like to use a scale model and track this over time. You can use something like “On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is ‘I feel awful’ and 5 is ‘happy as a clam,’ where are you on Belonging?” or something more tactile like “Here’s an empty battery outline - how ‘full’ or ‘empty’ are you feeling on Predictability?”
The last article is an old one but includes elements of both Kim and Longworth’s articles. In particular, Lopp considers a one-on-one that is just “an update” to be a bit of a miss, and shares his own approach for dealing with those - bringing up three particular points, doing a mini performance review on some specific area, or taking the time to get input on some fire he’s fighting. For the vent or the disaster Lopp gives similar advice to Kim - and suggests that one purpose of one-on-ones is to provide an environment where some of those minor dissatisfactions can be surfaced before they become vents or disasters.
There’s an interesting discussion of effective messaging for candidates for those doing active recruiting - on LinkedIn in this case, but it could just as well be over email or somewhere else. The advice is pretty straightforward but easy to forget - talk to them like an individual human - with some concrete suggestions about when and how to send the message.
Managing Your Own Career
Always be quitting - Julio Merino
If we knew we were quitting (or just going on a long vacation) in two months, what would we be doing differently at work? Probably documenting a lot more, making sure people were coming to meetings so that they could take our place when we weren’t there, training up people to be able to take over parts of our role for us.
But those activities are key and routine parts of being an effective manager or technical leader. Merino commends this approach to us - to be imagining that we were leaving, and being in the mindset of making ourselves less necessary. It’s a vital approach to scaling up our team and making room to take on new challenges, even in the same role.
In particular, Merino suggests -
Document your knowledge, long-term plans, and meetings
Bring others to meetings
Train people around you
Identify and train your replacement(s)
Give power to the people
Don’t make yourself the point of contact - establish mailing list or other forms of communication
Always be learning
These are great points to be consistently working on, whether you’re a manager, an individual contributor with a technical leadership role, or even just intending to take on either of those roles.