Putting a lot of thought into how I start a professional relationship with a new report has been extremely valuable. My goals in my first 1:1 with a new team member are to start building trust, set expectations for our professional relationship, share goals, and offer support. Every agenda item aims to meet one of those goals. And although I tend to dislike a lot of structure in most of my 1:1s, I like the clear agenda in my first 1:1, because I think it shows a level of thought and care that is often an afterthought in personal management time. I want my new report to know that I take this part of my job seriously and that their time is important.
This is the agenda that I follow during my first 1:1 with a new report.
Check-in (5 min)
- How is your day? Your project? Your team? Anything that you wanted to check-in on?
My values and goals (10 min)
- My management values
- My "Management Mission Statement"
Your values and goals (30 min)
- What are you looking for from a manager?
- How would you like to use your 1:1 time?
- Your short and long-term professional goals
How best to support you (10 min)
- Feedback, accountability, recognition
Wrap up (5 min)
- Outstanding questions
- Review action items
Let me break down each section’s purpose and discussion points.
The first 5-10 minutes of the meeting is reserved for a quick temperature check. Because this is our first 1:1, usually there isn’t much to talk about here. If anything comes up, it’s most often logistics questions about PTO requests or expense approvals now that they have a new manager (me 🙃).
My values and goals
The focus of this meeting is to learn about my new report and figure out how I can best serve as their manager, but I like to spend 10 minutes sharing my values with them. In a previous post, I talked about identifying your core values and what is important to you. I used a similar strategy for identifying my management values. My five management values are
- Share ownership
- Be transparent
- Ensure my team feels heard and supported
- Provide opportunities for growth
- Encourage and maintain productivity
Sharing my values leads to a discussion about my approach to management. I outline what my new team member can expect from me. Clear expectations start the professional relationship from a place of transparency and shared responsibility. I want them to tell me if at any point I don’t meet the expectations we set at the beginning.
I wrap up this agenda item with my “management mission statement.” Is it a little corny? Yes! But do I still find it valuable? Absolutely! My "management mission statement” is to show up for my team, foster their growth as confident, motivated technical consultants, and provide a space for supportive feedback.
By sharing my values and mission, my team begins to see what my guiding principles are as well as get a sense of my management style. I believe that being open and volunteering this information starts building trust and opening the door for 2-way feedback and accountability because we share expectations from the start.
Your values and goals
Next, we get to the meat of our conversation—my new team member’s values and goals. In this time, we dig into three main points of conversation: what they’re looking for from a manager, how they like to use their 1:1 time, and their professional goals.
What you're looking for in a manager
When talking about what they’re looking for from a manager, I start with 3 main questions.
- What do you most look for from a manager/leader?
- What is the most helpful/encouraging/best thing a manager has ever done for you?
- What is the one thing you wish you had but didn’t get from a manager in the past?
During this discussion, I ask a lot of clarifying questions and try to push beyond, “I want a manager who listens to me.” I find it particularly enlightening to hear what they most appreciated in a previous manager. The more specific information you can glean during this discussion, the easier it will be to implement some of what you learn in the future.
How you like to use 1:1 time
After spending time talking about what they need from a manager, I like to talk about how they like to use their 1:1 time. I believe that 1:1 time is theirs and the way they would like to use it is the best way I could spend it as a manager. Some questions I use to push this discussion forward are
- What environment is best for you during your 1:1s? In-office or out of the office? Sitting and discussing or active and moving around?
- Do you like to use the time to problem-solve current issues or focus on the future and check-in on goals?
- Do you prefer the time to be for relationship building or learning?
I have some reports who prefer to go to a coffee shop and have our 1:1s over breakfast in case they want to dig into sensitive topics and others who prefer to be in a conference room so they can plug in their computer and walk through things on the screen. I have some reports who prefer to use their 1:1 to work through interpersonal questions they have with current team members and others who are very future-forward and prefer to always be goal-setting and discussing how to achieve their goals. I have some who would much rather build a relationship with me and use the time just to catch up and talk, while others like to learn and use the time to walk through code or get feedback on conference talk proposals.
No matter how someone prefers to use their 1:1 time, I think creating an individualized environment for them to get the support they want and need goes far in building trust and helping each person reach their goals.
After talking about how they like to use this meeting time, I like to talk about goals. I save this as one of the later items we talk about, because I want them to feel supported and comfortable sharing goals even aren’t fully defined. I want this to be as open of a conversation as we can have.
We start by talking about short-term goals and move into long-term goals. I define short-term as 6 months, mostly because my company’s review cycle is every 6 months, but it’s a good time frame for smaller achievable goals. And long-term goals are 1-5 years. I encourage the other person to think beyond their time with our company and open up all possibilities.
While we talk about goals, I pay special attention to how they’re defined. Is the timeline clear? Is the success criteria clear? This discussion isn’t necessarily meant to be a full goal setting exercise but gives me a sense of the direction they want their career to go, if they already know. And if they don’t, this discussion can surface that so we can plan on spending time goal setting later.
A key question I make sure to ask while talking goals is, "What does support from me look like to help you achieve those goals?” Often, the person I’m talking to hasn’t considered what kind of support they’ll need and what steps it’ll take to get to their goal. This deeper conversation may need to be tabled for another time but it sets a tone of support and collaboration for our management relationship.
How best to support you
In some previous posts, I outlined my pillars of supportive management: feedback, accountability, and recognition. I believe strongly in them and like to ask my new reports about their preferred feedback, accountability, and recognition strategies. I also share my preferred strategies as examples and to be fully open and transparent.
We start by talking about they like to receive feedback. How directly do they like their feedback? Do they prefer to receive it in person or virtually via Slack or email? Do they prefer to receive it in-the- moment, directly following the interaction, or in our next 1:1? I prefer my feedback in person and direct, but gentle.
Then I ask about accountability strategies that work. For some people, deadlines are best, while others prefer regular check-ins with someone. I’ve found that making a step-by-step plan works for a lot of people but isn’t often thought of as an accountability strategy. For me, deadlines are an amazing motivator.
And finally, I wrap up with how they like to be recognized. I like to ask about recognition on 3 axes.
- Do you prefer in-person or virtual recognition?
- Do you prefer individual or shared recognition?
- Do you prefer public or private recognition?
It can feel uncomfortable asking for public shout-outs so I volunteer my preferred form of recognition. I prefer public, individual recognition but don’t mind written or verbal so give me a shout out publicly in Slack or stand up. Usually, people feel more comfortable asking for public recognition after this.
Finally, we wrap-up the meeting—a final few minutes for them to ask any outstanding questions that they didn’t get answered during the rest of the meeting. I end by summarizing any action items that I have from the meeting. I do this in all of my 1:1s and like to establish this practice right from the beginning.
This post turned out longer than I was planning, but I had a lot of thoughts about how to use that first hour with a new team member. Intentional relationship building is an important part of being a successful manager because you don’t manage resources, you manage people. You support people achieving their goals and pushing their careers forward. The first 1:1 with a new report is a great time to be intentional and set the tone for your relationship.
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