When something amazing happens in your 1:1s

Oliver told me, “My 1:1 meeting with Sean surprised me this week. It was a bit deeper, more personal. Out of the blue, he mentioned he was bored with the machine learning tutorials and wanted to get his hands dirty with it. I thought he didn’t like the subject, but I’d misread him. His honesty allowed us to have a deeper connection and build trust between us. I gave him a sample project, and he left feeling excited. In hindsight, it was an amazing moment!”

Has this happened to you?

You’re having a normal, every day 1:1 meeting (just like you do each week) and without warning something amazing happens. You find yourself connecting on a deeper level with your developer. The discussion becomes richer, and you feel like they really “get it.” Or maybe this time it’s you who’s “getting it.” It’s those moments when you’ve both let your guard down a bit more than usual, and speak from the heart. You can’t help but smile a bit when it happens.

You can’t force these moments any more than you can force a flower to sprout from seed. But you can create the conditions where they can occur. You’ve heard me preach about regularity, consistency, feedback and transparency as being keys to great 1:1 meetings. These create the environment where trust can grow. When I read Oliver’s email, I knew that she was experiencing first-hand a deeper connection with her developer through her 1:1 meetings.

Now, you might think it would take months for this to happen, but Oliver has only been doing 1:1 meetings for four weeks! In the 5th meeting, Sean took a chance and opened up more about how he felt about his work. He was willing to be honest, even in a small way. Your team wants to trust you, and they want you to trust them, but you’ve got to create the environment where trust can grow.

Here’s the lesson

Learn to notice when a magical moment happens in a 1:1. Make a note of it, and reflect on how it happened and how you can continue to deepen the discussion. Create a habit of noticing when marvelous things happen, and change your behavior to go deeper.

These moment’s don’t happen every day, and how you react is crucial. Leave some space between your meetings so you can let these moments happen at the end, instead of cutting it short with, “Sorry, time’s up.” Be mindful of them and extend them when needed to invest in the relationship. I promise your team will notice.

(This was originally published to his list of Software Leaders. Marcus is the author of 7 Habits that Ruin your Technical Team.)