My Question List for Early 1:1's

Oct 19, 2020
Questions and advice to build trust in reporting relationships with software engineers and engineering managers. Includes Notion worksheet!
At the beginning of my new reporting relationships with engineers, it is of paramount importance to me to establish a bond of trust. One of the best ways of doing that, I have found, is working through my 1:1 questions as an activity with each of your reports.
Not only is having the answers to these questions so that you can refer back to them later really helpful, as a manager, answering them yourself is an effective way of opening up and talking about your own weaknesses to encourage the notion that we are not chasing or expecting perfection. It allows you to put your guard down, and that invites trust.
As written about in "The Culture Code" - trust is the foundation of effective teams. The quicker you can build psychological safety and trust with new reports, the better. This is why I believe both taking it in turns to answer is so so effective and worthy of your time.
This list has been heavily inspired by Lara Hogans Questions for our first 1:1 post.
I ask the questions and collect the answers in Notion. You can find a template here. When finished, I will move the document so that both me and my report have access to it at a later date.

1) What makes you happy at work/at home?

2) What makes you grumpy at work/at home?

3) What do you want/expect from your manager?

4) What do you want/expect from your peers?

5) What makes 1:1s the most valuable for you?

6) What are you most proud of achieving over the last year?

7) If there was one thing you could change about this/your last company, what would it be?

8) What are your goals for this year?

9) What’s your favourite way to treat yourself?

The only other thing I would add is that approach this with caution. I don't think if possible this should be the first thing you do with someone, which is why I have named it "early" 1:1's. I recommend having at least a couple of interactions with your report first - joining Attest I had virtual coffees with everybody before I asked these questions.

© James Bedford 2021