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IT Engineering Manager — Real Valuable One-on-One Meetings

Who is an IT Engineering Manager?

Just as with any industry that requires the guidance and support of a manager who can lead a project to fruition, software engineering or IT also needs a manager who can help a team of software developers, testers, analysts, and other managers deliver high-quality software and hardware solutions.

To successfully complete an IT project, an engineering manager has to juggle a wide range of roles and responsibilities they are

● Managing the team

● Hiring and training new engineers

● Propose a budget for projects

● Allocate resources

● Communicate with stakeholders

● Create reports on projects

● Collaborate with sales teams

● Track progress of projects

● Motivate employees

The role of an engineering manager is more than just carrying out these obligations. They must also support their entire team with bias-free leadership, nurture relationships with their direct reports, regularly communicate pain points within the project and the work environment.

An Engineering Manager unconditionally supports their team to achieve their personal goals, boosts their morale, assist them where necessary, spot talents, give opportunities, and ultimately help successfully execute the various projects they undertake.

So how does an Engineering Manager foster transparent, healthy relationships with their direct reports?

The answer is 0ne-on-one meetings!

What are one-on-one meetings?

One-on-one meetings are the foundation of a successful IT team; during these meetings, the manager and their direct report talk entirely in a private setting. The one-on-one meeting’s primary focus is fully on the report and how to address their problems and also any other concerns regarding the projects.

The most important part of a one-on-one meeting is that it is a private meeting without any distractions such as email or phone calls. The complete uninterrupted attention is dedicated to your direct report to discuss their performance, developmental issues, mental health issues, and so on.

One-on-one meetings give everyone a chance to speak up in a way they would never do in a public setting, such as venting on a toxic office situation or raising specific concerns regarding a project.

You are building a rapport and developing trust with your direct report encouraging them to do better, and encouraging them to approach you when needed boldly. At the same time, you as a manager can exercise your influence on them by providing them opinions, advice, support, and addressing project issues. The end result is you have got your team and the project on the right track.

How often can you conduct one-on-one meetings?

You can conduct one-on-one meetings every week, and the duration can be anywhere between 20 minutes to an hour. Maintaining a regular schedule means your employees expect to meet with you every week.

If these meetings are a regular occurrence, employees tend to be up to date with their work progress. They are motivated to perform better, and a predictable routine means employees are well aware and prepare themselves better ahead of the meeting.

How can you carry out an effective one-on-one meeting, and what are the best practices to follow?

Prepare

Prepare yourself ahead of the meeting by jotting down a few essential points regarding the project progress, the inputs you want to share, the vital information from the meeting with the stakeholders, etc.

You can note the information on paper or on a shared document that only you and your direct report can access. A shared document is better since there is a record of the happenings of the meeting, and you can go back to the document whenever required.

Share their recent wins.

Always starting the meeting by sharing the report’s wins can be a great way to make them feel appreciated and motivated; even the smallest of the win, when acknowledged by their manager, can significantly impact how they feel and their performance.

Create a safe environment

Creating a psychologically safe environment for your team members helps them open themselves up; you can share a funny anecdote of something that happened while you were working as a developer or check how they are holding up during the pandemic.

Once you start the conversation with a few ice breaker questions, the report feels comfortable and safe enough to continue the conversation and express themselves freely.

Your report is the primary focus, not you.

Ensure throughout the meeting that your report is the primary focus, ask them questions, engage them in a productive conversation, avoid the urge to solve their problem instead ask more questions so that they arrive at a conclusion themselves.

Listen and lend an empathetic ear towards their problems and avoid dominating the conversation; though this can be pretty difficult initially, you will get better with practice.

Don’t turn one-on-one meetings into status updates.

One of the critical aspects of one-on-one meetings is to get updates regarding the project progress, but a meeting filled only with projects’ status updates can end up being very dull and boring.

Most of the project updates are generally available on the project collaboration tools. However, you can ask a few questions like, are you exploring open-source software to solve that problem? How can we complete the prototype testing process quicker? This helps stimulate project updates discussion.

Once you have a few essential updates for reporting to higher-ups, you can continue discussing their personal achievements, growth, and training instead of nitpicking on every single project detail.

Be open to your report’s ideas.

Engineering managers can sometimes dismiss their team member’s ideas without even considering exploring these ideas. This can be a major reason why the employees do not take the initiative to communicate their vision.

Managers fail to reward or recognize the out-of-the-box solutions provided by their team members and, most of the time leaders can make decisions without including inputs from their team.

Scenarios like these have led to the employees staying mum when asked for their engagement on a new project or a concept; you can avoid such situations by building a work environment that values, rewards, and recognizes new ideas.

Building a positive work culture that values employee ideas can lead to higher productivity, retention, loyalty, and path-breaking innovations.

End the meeting on a positive note

The most effective way to end your meeting is the same way you began it, on a positive note.

Just as you started the meeting by sharing a small win helping them feel motivated, you can end the meeting by showing your gratitude and appreciation.

You can sign off the meeting by thanking them for all the hard work they have put in for the project, and you can thank them for their time and let them know to keep up their excellent work.

As they exit the meeting, this tiny gesture might make your report feel joyful and good.

How do you handle the different challenging personalities at one-on-one meetings?

The conversation flows easily in most of the meetings since the agenda of the meeting is clearly defined, and the private setting encourages everyone to speak freely generally. Still, there are some instances where you have to encounter personalities that are at the far end of the speaking spectrum.

Some of them are the quiet type, whereas a few others can be the venting type.

How do you handle these two personalities?

With the direct report who is of the quiet type, you try to prompt them with more questions to encourage them to have a conversation with you.

The most important thing to understand is that they do not like to share their feelings or thoughts. It is just their personality and has nothing to do with you. If you still feel that they are not opening up after all the efforts, you can ask them questions like, “ Don’t you think we have not used the full hour of the meeting? Is there anything else we must cover?

Then there are the venting types who end up venting all their frustrations to you, and you end up in the meeting being their agony aunt, which is not what you want to be doing as their manager.

So how do you handle them?

It is OK to vent out your frustrations once in a while, but turning every one-on-one meeting into a venting session can backfire since you will end up making no headways in terms of productivity.

Address the problems they are facing head-on and help them find solutions to the problems they are facing. Assist them in turning their bad feelings into something positive; this will allow you to redirect the conversation in a positive direction.

How do address your reports’ mental health issues and other personal issues?

Through the course of frequent one-on-one meetings, you develop a really good rapport with your direct reports, and they trust you enough to open up about their mental health issues, medical issues, or other personal traumas they are facing.

In a situation such as this, you must understand that you are not qualified to fix or offer advice on these issues, you can always lend an ear to their problems, but the best thing to do would be to direct them towards the right help.

This is the time to enlist outside support and direct them to the appropriate resources. Mental health concerns require special attention, and as a manager, you must recognize them and seek outside assistance.

Is there a limit to the number of reports you can engage in weekly one-on-one meetings?

Yes, there is a limit to the number of reports you handle, since a weekly one-one-meetings means spending an hour every week with your report and if there are a lot of reports to handle that can take up your entire day. Added to that you have to prepare for the meeting with every report which can increase the time spent on these one-on-one meetings.

The maximum number of reports that an engineering manager can handle must be restricted to 5 to 7 reports; that way, you can give your undivided attention to your reports resulting in an increase in work productivity and motivated employees.

What are the outcomes of one-on-one meetings?

You must prepare yourself ahead by writing down the different actions, both positive and negative, in a shared document that is visible to only you and your direct report. These actions are then assigned to the report through the meeting and are then reviewed at the end of the meetings.

The shared documents will end up being a point of reference as time progresses and can be used during the performance review of your direct reports.

The important outcomes of one-on-one meetings are as follows,

· Achievements are recognized

· Team members’ visibility rises; now you know who is doing what.

· You can identify the obstacles to high performance that a report faces and assist them in overcoming them.

· Understand the areas that require improvement and take help from the right team members.

· Help develop trust between the employee and the manager.

· Provide constructive feedback to your report.

· Discuss issues before they snowball into major problems.

Conclusion

One-on-one meetings are a great way to bring your organization together and help everyone work together as one unit. It is essential to ingrain these one-on-meetings as part of your company culture.

Once you integrate these meetings as an essential part of your company’s culture, employees will look forward to these meetings to share ideas, concepts, resources with their managers to enhance their work environment, project progress, career path, and overall development.

This imbibes a practice where they will connect one-on-one to anyone in the organization to understand problems and arrive at solutions. The employees then go on to build relationships and grow a network both within and outside your organization.

To successfully implement one-on-one meetings into the company’s fabric, the IT Engineering Manager plays the role of a leader who steers the crew towards the end goal but at the same time is empathetic, provides unconditional support, protects when faced with difficulties, and nurtures their employees to be the best version of themselves.

Finally, one-on-one meetings with your IT Engineering manager add value to your organization and allow your employees to flourish.

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Rollout IT Ltd.

Rollout IT Ltd.

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