What’s the Deal With One on Ones?
Early in my career, I didn’t interact much with management. For the past decade, the companies I have worked at had regular one-on-one meetings with my immediate manager. At the end of my tenure at Cisco, thanks to a growing rapport and adjacent cubicles, I communicated with my manager several times a day, on all manner of topics.
One of the nagging questions I’ve never really asked myself is: what is the point of a one-on-one? I never really looked at it beyond being a thing managers are told to do, a minor tax on my time. At Cisco, I found value in harvesting bits of gossip as to what was going in the levels of management between me and the CEO.
Ben Horowitz has a good piece on his blog. In his view, the one-on-one is an important end point of an effective communication architecture within the company. The employee should drive the agenda, perhaps to the point of providing a written agenda ahead of time. “This is what is on my mind,” giving management an opportunity to listen, refine strategies, clarify expectations, un-block, and provide insight up the management chain. He suggests some questions to help get introverted employees talking.
I am not a manager, but as an employee, the take-away is the need to conjure an agenda: what is working? What is not working? How can we make not merely the technology, but the way we work as a team and a company, more effective?