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Ruining your 1:1 meetings with 'optimizations'

Matt asked me, “Is there any way to optimize my 1:1 meetings?  They take so much time from my week that I am often rescheduling and chasing them across my week.  I see new software systems which claim to help with planning them, tracking them, accountability, etc.  Do you recommend this kind of optimization?”

Yes, and no.

As a technical leader, you wear many hats.  It’s tempting to optimize your 1:1 meetings to make them shorter.  Shorter 1:1’s might allow you to do more of them each day, to spend more time coding, or even go home earlier.  I’m sure you have better ideas for your time than I can offer.

But this is a Fool’s Choice.  A Fool’s Choice is when we mistakenly think there are only two options when in reality there are more. In this case, Matt imagines that optimizing his meetings means making them shorter.  He thinks the options are: Shorten (“optimize”) them by using a tool or continue taking the same amount of time by doing them as he’s doing them today.

What Matt is missing is that optimizing doesn’t have to mean shorter.  It can mean other things too.

For example, I often tell my workshop attendees “The primary purpose for your 1:1 meetings is to build strong trust relationships with your team.”   In this case, optimizing the conference would mean increasing the trust created through the meeting, not shortening the duration ( which may well have the opposite effect.)

Before you think about optimizing, ask yourself are your meetings accomplishing the goal you have for them?  If the answer is “yes,” you might consider how an optimization could help you get even more from them.

But if the answer is “no,” then stop your optimizing efforts.  You might be considering a premature optimization, which will move you farther away from your goal.  Instead, I suggest you discuss the meeting goal with each person in your next 1:1 meeting.  Having a meta-discussion about the meeting could reveal some new information about how you can reach your goal.  It also might open up new kinds of conversations with your team about what their goals for the meeting are, and help you try some experiments which help you meet your meeting goals.

A conversation like this also builds trust between you and your developer. It invites them to collaborate with you to reach a mutual goal, giving them motivation to actively participate in the meetings.  This may be the ultimate 1:1 optimization.

About Marcus Blankenship

Where other technical coaches focus on process or tools, I focus on the human aspects of your Programmer to Manager transition. I help you hire the right people, create the right culture, and setup the right process which achieves your goals. Managing your team isn't something you learned in college. In fact, my clients often tell me "I never prepared for this role, I always focused on doing the work". If you're ready to improve your leadership, process and team, find out how I can help you.

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