It’s not a status update

A common problem that we often see is that engineering managers are using their one-on-one meetings for status updates. In this article, we explore what the purpose of 1:1’s is, why it is a problem to use them for status updates, and what alternative options you have to get a status update

It’s not a status update
Jeroen Fiege
Jeroen Fiege
Founder Strateamic
March 22, 2023

The main purpose of one-on-one meetings

The one-on-one meeting is a vital tool for engineering managers to foster the growth and development of their team members. It provides a dedicated time for managers to engage with their reports on a personal level, understand their goals and aspirations, and identify any obstacles that might be impeding their progress. By having regular one-on-one meetings, managers can build a trusting relationship with their team members, which is crucial for fostering an open and honest work environment.

One of the key purposes of one-on-one meetings is to support the career growth of team members. By understanding their professional goals, managers can help them develop the skills they need to succeed and advance in their careers. This can involve providing training, mentorship, or opportunities to work on new projects or initiatives. Moreover, one-on-one meetings provide an opportunity for managers to understand the individual strengths and weaknesses of their team members and tailor their support accordingly. By taking an interest in the career growth of their team members, managers can build a more engaged and motivated team, which ultimately benefits the organization as a whole.

Problems with using 1:1s for status updates

One important issue with using one-on-ones for status updates is that it doesn’t scale. Going to every team member to get an idea of how the project is progressing is time-consuming and can quickly become overwhelming, especially when the team grows. As an engineering manager you have limited time available for all your tasks, and using 1:1s to get an update on the status of the project is very inefficient. In the next section, we dive into more efficient ways to get status updates.

Another issue with using one-on-one meetings for status updates is that it can take away focus from more important topics. Status updates are often straightforward, and it's easy to spend the entire meeting discussing them. However, there are many more critical topics that need to be covered in one-on-one meetings, such as career goals, work/life balance, and professional development. By focusing too much on status updates, managers risk missing out on the opportunity to discuss these important topics, which can lead to disengagement and demotivation among team members.

What to do instead?

We’ve learned about the real purpose of one-on-ones and what the problem is by using a one-on-one meeting for status updates. Let’s dive into more efficient ways to get status updates.

Daily stand-ups

Daily stand-ups can be an effective way to keep track of progress and ensure everyone is aware of what others are working on. These quick, daily meetings provide an opportunity for team members to share updates on their progress and identify any obstacles they are facing. You can choose to regularly attend daily standups.

Scrum/KanBan board

Another option is to use a Scrum or KanBan board to track project progress. By using a project management tool, such as Trello or Asana, team members can update their progress in real-time, providing managers with a clear overview of the status of each project. With a single glance at the board, you can get a good idea of the project's current status. No need to talk to each member individually.

Request async status updates

As a manager, you can ask team members to update you regularly via asynchronous channels, such as Slack or email. This approach allows team members to provide updates as soon as they have them, without needing to wait for a scheduled meeting. You can also request to be updated more regularly. For example a weekly update at the end of the week about the work that was done.

Avoid these questions in your 1:1s

Avoid asking status-related questions during one-on-one meetings, like:

  • What is the status of project X?
  • What tickets did you finish this week?
  • When do you expect ticket Y to be done?

Instead, focus on discussing more critical topics, such as professional development, career goals, and work/life balance.

Strateamic for structured 1-on-1 meetings
Strateamic helps leaders structure their 1:1s. After you've invited your team, you can create a meeting schedule with your direct reports. Strateamic automatically prepares meeting questions, or you can add your own talking points. Ahead of the meeting, your reports are asked to go over the questions and answer them. Because they already put thought into it before the meeting, they will be better prepared during the meeting, which makes it more effective for both of you. Try now

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