5 tips for an effective one-on-one meeting

5 tips for an effective one-on-one meetingPhoto by
By Hemerson Carlin
3 min read

One-on-one is most likely the main opportunity a Software Engineer has to talk about their growth, aspirations, ambitions and what’s next for them in the role.

It is also a great time to talk about challenges and ask for help so a manager knows how to proceed and take actions as early as possible.

As a Technical Lead, I used past experiences to tailor my own way into it. With time things just come naturally so you know "how to read" a person and help them to achieve the things they want for their career.

That’s also the main reason I’m writing this blog post and I hope it can be of any help to you.

So here are my top 5 tips for an effective one-on-one meeting:

#1 Come prepared and be ready to fail

Things are different once you become the person driving the meeting. I highly recommend reading books and articles about the topic. Talking to more experienced leaders in your organization and asking for suggestions is also a good starting point.

Don't be afraid to fail!

After all, we’re not perfect. Keep the feedback loop and look for improvements whenever you have the chance to do so. This is very important for your own career and growth too.

#2 Use the very first one-on-one to know better your direct reports

It's crucial to manage expectations. And you'll never know when is the best time to act if you don't have enough information.

Ask about how they want to receive feedback, what’s the best way to give them recognition, make sure to measure their happiness and goals, and give support to their growth. Some Engineers might not know what they want for their career and it's your job to help them find their way.

#3 Always take notes

I can't stress enough how important this is. It brings you confidence and that's how you show your direct reports you are willing to help. This is going to be essential for you to build trust in the future.

#4 Use a structured process

Use a structured process so you don't get biased when meeting with different peers.

Specially if leading a close friend. If you engage differently with direct reports, there's a high chance you are not helping at all.

Structured process leads to future comparisons for you to know who’s more or less open with you.

Use your notes to analyze consistencies (and inconsistencies) about the responses they give you. It’s easy to identify gaps and divergent views.

#5 Ask the right questions

Background questions (family, weekend plans and interests) are completely fine. You can even share your background if you feel like the conversation is flowing but remember the main purpose of the meeting and don’t spend too much time with distractions.

Asking about career, the team and the product you work on is probably the best approach.

I hope that's helpful and interesting to you. 👋🏼

Did you know you can help me with this page?

If you see something wrong, think this page needs clarification, you found a typo or any other suggestion you might have feel free to open a PR and I will take care of the rest.

My entire site is available to edit on GitHub and all are very welcome 🤙🏼.


Hemerson Carlin, also known as mersocarlin, is passionate and resourceful full-stack Software Engineer with 10+ years of experience focused on agile development, architecture and team building.

This is the space to share the things he likes, a couple of ideas and some of his work.

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