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Help me understand you

I am preparing to welcome a new team member, and I am excited to reinforce my practice of effective 1:1s. The first few 1:1s with a new team member can feel awkward. In a way it is like a new relationship where both sides try to guess what the other person means to say and to avoid hurting feelings. Inspired by the amazing Lara Hogan, I learned to use the help-me-understand-you document to make the first few 1:1s effective.

The document

I have a Google Doc template that lists questions to help me understand my team members. For each one of the team, I clone the document and share it with that person only. Typically I show them the document in our very first 1:1, and ask them to fill it in before the second. We will also refer back to the document from time to time.

Lara’s post provides a great list of questions to consider. Here is what I am using currently:

  • On life priorities:
    • What is your preferred schedule?
    • What priorities do you have other than your job?
    • What’s your favorite way to treat yourself?
  • On feedback on recognition:
    • How do you prefer feedback?
    • How do you prefer praise?
    • How do you like to receive support?
  • On career aspirations:
    • What is your desired career trajectory? Role and projects?
    • What kind of work/work-related things give you gratification?
    • What kind of work/work-related things irritate you?
  • Open ended questions:
    • How can I make life easier for you as a Software Engineer?
    • Anything else you want me to know?

The conversation

The document is very valuable, but it cannot replace the conversation. I typically read the document once it is ready, and then have a live conversation with them in the next 1:1. This is an opportunity to clarify and follow up, but more importantly it is the best time for me to repeat and absorb the information.

Over time I would regularly come back to the document. I find it useful when I need to deliver praise or feedback. It is also helpful in planning seasons to match potential projects with their career aspirations.

I am now off to clone the document for the new team member. Talk to you next time on helping you understand me.