At Amazon, I had the privilege of leading a team of 8 talented software engineers alongside a more experienced colleague. My colleague conducted one-on-one meetings with each engineer. When they went on leave, it was my turn to set up a one-on-one meeting series with everyone. It was my first time setting up such sessions outside of a mentorship context. To ensure a smooth transition, I conducted research and prepared an introductory speech for our first meetings.
Since then, I’ve refined those guidelines and disclaimers, and I’ve delivered this introduction about 20 times. I’ve reproduced it below:
Our First Meeting
Here’s what I’d like to cover today, after we talk about the agenda:
- Goals and Expectations: What are your goals? What would you like to achieve through these meetings?
- Feedback and Communication: Do you have any preferences for how you like to receive or offer feedback?
- Challenges and Concerns: What immediate challenges are you facing? What’s on your mind?
These questions will help us frame our next few sessions together.
Our one-on-one series can take different forms, tailored to your preferences and needs.
- Our sessions can be structured or unstructured. In a structured format, like in a mentorship arrangement, we can discuss values and establish SMART goals for your growth. In a less structured format, we can talk about whatever is on your mind for the week without a formal agenda.
- While I’m not a therapist, I’m willing to listen and provide support, especially
on challenging days. If you’re considering pursuing therapy, I recommend it!
Our medical plan likely provides access to professional help, and I’ve found
talking to a therapist can be helpful.
I like to write notes for our sessions so to ensure we remember what we discussed. Rest assured, these notes won’t be shared externally. If you think of something between our meetings, don’t hesitate to reach out, or feel free to add it to our shared document for future discussions.
Strategic over Tactical
I prefer to focus on strategic, overarching challenges, rather than tactical ones. For example, a tactical issue may be a bug in the code, which we could discuss in other channels or meetings. In contrast, strategic topics could encompass finding better ways to collaborate with partner teams, improving productivity, advancing your career goals, or maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Information Terms and Conditions
In our initial meeting, I like to cover our data terms and conditions. What we discuss remains strictly between you and I, except in the following scenarios:
- If what we discuss can be anonymized because it’s a common concern within the team.
- If I think sharing the information could be beneficial and I receive your permission.
- In rare cases, if I believe there may be a risk to yourself or others, we may need to take appropriate steps. I’ve never had to use this clause.
If you’re embarking on setting up a one-on-one series, I hope you find this to be a helpful reference. If you’re a colleague I’ve sent this to because we’re setting up a one-on-one, I’m looking forward to working with you!