I saw this thread on Hacker News today where a user asks, “what do you talk about in 1-on-1s with your managers?”

I’m mainly bookmarking it here to read in depth later…

I found starting 1:1s to be pretty difficult, both as an individual contributor just talking with my direct manager, and as a director talking to ICs and managers under me as well as executives above me. So, I like to read up on what other people found worked for them.

My 1:1s usually look like:

  • Greeting/small talk to break the ice.
  • General check in:
    • When the other person is my direct report we talk quickly about anything they are working on that they need my help/feedback/input/decisions on.
    • When the other person is a manager or peer, we’ll talk about anything we need from the other or know they are waiting on.
  • Confirm action items for either of us before ending the call.

With my reports, they generally take 15 minutes. Sometimes they take an hour. Sometimes they take 2 minutes. Some people are naturally quieter or more talkative than others. Sometimes our conversations are nothing more than shooting the shit—which is still useful as a way to build rapport. Other times we get in the weeds on specific technical issues. And sometimes one of us is just a sounding board for the other to vent frustrations.

Interestingly, there isn’t a strong pattern person-to-person with these. I’ve had both long and short calls with each of my reports and peers. It really just depends on what is going on in life and the business at that particular moment.