Three Breaths

Musings on code, management, and life

Give Yourself a 1:1

Posted at — Feb 13, 2020

I love 1:1s. As a manager they are my life-blood.

I love having them with my team, I love having them with my manager, and I love having them with my peers.

I would love them in the rain, I would love them on a train (hat tip to Dr. Seuss)

I love talking about 1:1s. In fact, if we’ve ever talked about management practices IRL, I am sure we’ve talked about 1:1s and how important I think they are.

You should be having all these kinds of 1:1s. But there is probably one kind of 1:1 that maybe you aren’t having…a 1:1 with yourself. That’s right, I said it.

About a year ago, I was extolling the virtues of 1:1s to someone not even in the software industry, while also explaining some challenges I was going through at the time, and they stopped me in my tracks with a question I had never considered.

Have you ever had a 1:1 with yourself?

So I tried it out. I blocked off 45 minutes on my calendar (if it is not on the calendar it doesn’t get done). I felt a little weird at first about having a 1:1 with myself, so I marked it private. I didn’t want people to think I was sitting in my office having a Smeagol/Gollum argument with myself.

But there is no need to hide the fact that you are taking the time to do some self maintence, reflection, and course correction. It is now on my calendar, for all lurkers to see :)

I tend to use the same techniques in my self 1:1 that I might use for any 1:1. Sometimes I ask the question (not out loud), “What do you want to talk about today”. Last week I did a mini-self-retrospective: what went well, what can you improve on, what actions are you going to take. I’m staking out time in my week for serious reflection and thought. You are probably thinking about things like this all the time, but setting aside a dedicated time and maybe even taking some notes or journaling will give you a chance to build on things, and keep track of your progress, goals, and setbacks.

I had an interesting experience in my last self 1:1 (I really need a better name1, pull requests welcome). I had set aside 45 minutes for myself, but after about 25 minutes I was pretty self-reflected out. I was ready to declare victory and move on. But as anyone who’s had a 1:1 with me knows, we aren’t going to finish early, we are going to find something to talk about. So I really challenged myself to dig deeper, peeling back more layers of the onion, and the time was really well spent. Some of the best conversations in my 1:1’s happen after we’ve talked about the obvious stuff, the stuff right in front of us. Then it is time to pull on some threads, ask more of those AWE (and what else) questions from The Coaching Habit.

So give yourself a weekly gift. Give yourself a regular 1:1. Whether you are a manager or not, it is a great opportunity to take a more active, intentional role in your own growth and well being.

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