1:1 meetings as a thermometer for changes in the team

Team Management Agile Dynamics Gathering Feedback Management 2.0 Leadership Empathy Maps

One of the challenges we have when we are working in management or team management is to measure the adaptation that these have to the various changes that we are applying. The second challenge we could say is to detect if before or after the application of certain changes there are points that affect the productivity of the group or any of its members. In order to be able to measure these points, we must have a tool that allows us to capture information and analyze it.

During the last years the application of agile methodologies has provided us with the tools to be able to apply, from a management position, the necessary changes depending on the moment of the team. The objective will be to maximize the delivery of value and eliminate the obstacles that may exist to achieve certain objectives.

Agile methodologies do not end here, because a second important part is to be able to measure the result of these changes and the progress of their execution. This article is going to focus on what spaces we should be able to count on within our teams to be able to obtain this information. We will see how the structures of these communicative spaces should be in order to get the most out of them.

1:1 meetings, how to define them? These are the spaces that we will have with the people in our team who will report directly to us. They can also be used to communicate with relevant people in the company, such as heads of departments where technology has a strong impact.

The objective of the 1:1 will be to detect possible problems with the team members and be able to mitigate them in time. It can also help us to receive feedback on things that we as managers can do to improve the productivity of our team.

The frequency of 1:1s is usually every two to three weeks. This should be sufficient time to detect any problems that may arise in the team and minimize their impact.

What is the duration of a 1:1? The standard duration usually ranges from 45 minutes to 1 hour. It will depend a lot on the person with whom we hold the meeting, as it is usually easier to achieve more dynamism and require more time with extroverted people. The ideal way to make the most of the meeting time is to use a tool that allows us to write down the things we want to discuss between meetings.

The ideal is to use simple models to structure the information that comes out of these meetings. A shared document may be sufficient to record actions, feedback or other useful information for both members of the 1:1.

It is normal that the first 1:1s with the people in the team require more preparation, but if we avoid complex models and create a standard structure it will be easy to follow up regularly on this type of meeting. A slightly more advanced model is to try to reflect the information obtained in these meetings in an empathy map with the objective of having a written profile of each team member.

empathy map

Example of a Canvas diagram to represent an empathy map.

What kind of content is discussed? It is not a meeting to talk about the status of a project. The content has to ensure that the person we are talking to is comfortable professionally within the team and that their personal objectives are aligned with the company's objectives. It is important, as we have indicated before, that this meeting again ensures the maximization of the person's performance. It has to be a space where we are receptive as listeners to understand their situation. We must remove the blocks that are preventing the ecosystem or the context in which they are performing their work from being the most favorable for this person to achieve their maximum performance.

Often the type of content or dynamics of the 1:1 execution will also depend on the time of the year in which the company finds itself. In addition, the personality of the person is also relevant in this regard. Since it is an interviewee-oriented meeting, as receivers we must adjust our role to the person with whom we are conducting the meeting.

Normally 2 weeks is the right frequency to conduct 1:1s. Based on our experience in Group4Layers and collaboration with other entities, this time is sufficient to detect possible problems or improvements to be applied. The cadence should also be adapted to the state of integration of this person within the team. It is normal that when a person joins the team the first meetings are more frequent. Sometimes you can also vary the frequency depending on the personality of the person, people who are more open to give feedback outside of these meetings will not need such frequent meetings.

Constructive feedback on a regular basis is one of the important factors in enabling people to improve professionally. There are various models for giving and receiving feedback. The essence is to focus on how the person's behavior within the team makes us feel responsible for them. The key is to focus on these behaviors and not on technical peculiarities or other less relevant factors of their work. We have to focus on how certain actions of a person within the team generate specific feelings.

Let's give a specific example of what it would be like to report this feedback from a team member. A person in our team has been uploading changes to production for several weeks that have caused errors and instability in the project. This situation is an objective fact, it can be measured and verified. The feeling that this situation generates in us is insecurity regarding the contributions that this team member makes to the project. When giving feedback we must transmit this feeling to the person by focusing on himself/herself and on the facts that generate it.

After the feedback, we will have focused on a problem not referring to a person, but on facts that have happened and we can get down to work to solve it by means of the necessary actions.

The feedback also has to be the reverse. When we are in a position of greater responsibility it will be more complicated to receive feedback. We will need to ask some probing questions to try to get some feedback because otherwise the "boss" effect will make it very difficult for someone to give us negative feedback on our work. We can put on the table concrete actions that we have done as managers and ask about their opinion about these changes.

In conclusion, it is important that when we are managing a team and applying changes in this we have the dynamics that allow us to know if these changes are having a good acceptance. Having spaces that have a correct structure and content will be essential to be able to know the problems that may appear in our teams.

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