Last year we split our IT team into three smaller teams. One reason why we split the team is that the team just became too big for one manager. I took over one team and then was team lead of three developers. So, managing them was on my plate and one of the things I was really exited about were 1-on-1s.

You can read a lot about 1-on-1s and why you should have some with your team on the web. However, especially as a first time manager I wondered how to get started. How would the first 1-on-1 be? What questions should I ask? What want I get out of the first 1-on-1?

I started with three questions. “What are your favorite things to work on?” and “What have your past managers done that you’d like me to also do or not do?” were both taken from Lighthouse.

The anwers to those questions are valuable information and helped me a lot in supporting each person to work on things she likes and how not to manage her.

The third and my favorite question is “What do you expect from me as your team lead?”. I had not a single person who could answer this question in the first 1-on-1, because they had to think about it, took it as homework and answered the question one or two weeks later.

Example answers:

  • Put trust in me and let me do my work.
  • I want to be challenged.
  • Don’t micro manage me.
  • Pass on responsibilities to the team.
  • Give me direct and fast feedback, so I can learn faster.
  • Be my goto person and take care of my concerns.
  • Get project management tasks and backlog priorisation discussions out of my way.
  • Create a pleasant and productive working atmosphere.
  • Represent the opinions of the team in management meetings and discussions.
  • Facilitate decision making within the team and make decisions if the team can’t.
  • Mentor me in technical and interpersonal work-related concerns.

At that time I had no experience in managing people and only a vague understanding of what my team might expect from me. Looking back the answers helped me a lot to better empathize with each person of my team which in turn enabled me to better manage them.

What is your favorite question for a first 1-on-1 and why?