Recently I was giving some advice (that I was asked for, which is novel) regarding one-to-one meetings between developers and either team leads or management can be structured. My thoughts really boiled down to some very short points (this is why sometimes, those meetings take 15 minutes and other times they take 3 times that for a monthly update!). In case they're useful to anyone else, here's my meeting outline:
- What's going well/what are you excited about?
- What's tedious/annoying or actually a problem?
- What could I be doing that I'm not?
I mostly find that the above will draw out the themes that need to be talked about more and so we'll usually chat on one or other of these topics for a while during the meeting, it's not a 3 questions and you're done. One thing that I try hard at is to NOT TALK until the person I'm in the meeting with has definitely ground to a halt. Most people will talk to fill a void and you can often get the REAL problems after a pause. (If you know me personally this may amuse you, I'm a chatterbox!).
The final question has been the one that brings the most surprises. From "help me get my big holiday request approved" to "I've no idea what you're asking me but I'm going to tell you about my mental health problems anyway" to "can you teach me to git rebase?" .... it's always worth asking this very open-ended question and listening carefully to what you get back in response. Sometimes I am not sure how to help but we can work out a plan together. Other times, people just need to talk and that's also fine.
If you're running these kinds of meetings with people, what are your tactics? I'm always looking for ways to improve what I do so I'm interested to read your suggestions!