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Driving Success Through Effective Engineering Manager One-on-Ones in 2023

14 Min Read
Driving Success Through Effective Engineering Manager One-on-Ones in 2023

Effective leadership as an engineering manager encompasses more than just overseeing people, products, and technology. It requires a thoughtful approach akin to following a well-crafted recipe. 

Within this framework, structured one-on-one meetings serve as a vital ingredient, providing managers with a valuable opportunity to forge connections, comprehend individual goals and challenges, offer guidance and feedback, and ensure alignment toward shared objectives. Developing strong personal connections within our teams is a hidden key to triumph for engineering managers. 

Read the blog to learn how engineering managers can leverage one-on-ones to maximize productivity and create a thriving work environment in 2023.

Setting the Foundation for Effective One-on-Ones

Effective one-on-one meetings between engineering managers and their team members are essential for fostering a collaborative and productive work environment. To establish a strong foundation for these meetings, engineering managers should consider the following:

  1. Define the Purpose
  • Communicate the objectives and goals of the one-on-one meetings.
  • Identify whether the purpose is providing feedback, discussing career development, addressing challenges, or combining these.
  • Ensure that team members understand the value and importance of these meetings in their professional growth.
  1. Determine the Frequency and Format
  • Decide on the frequency of the one-on-one meetings, whether weekly, biweekly, or monthly.
  • Consider the duration of each meeting, ensuring that it allows sufficient time for meaningful discussions.
  • Determine whether the meetings will be conducted in person, virtually, or through a hybrid format based on the team’s needs and preferences.
  • According to Gallup, employees with regular one-on-one meetings with their managers are more likely to be engaged. 
  1. Create a Safe and Open Environment
  • Encourage a safe and non-judgmental space where team members can freely express their thoughts, concerns, and ideas.
  • Foster an open, inclusive culture that values diverse perspectives and encourages active participation.
  • Establish trust and confidentiality to build stronger relationships between managers and team members.
  • Effective one-on-one meetings can improve communication, increase trust, and better align individual and organizational goals.

By setting clear expectations, creating a safe environment, and highlighting the benefits of one-on-one meetings, engineering managers can lay the foundation for productive and impactful interactions with their team members.

Preparing for One-on-Ones

Adequate preparation is crucial to maximize the value of one-on-one meetings between engineering managers and their team members. By investing time in practice, managers can ensure that discussions are meaningful, focused, and tailored to meet the needs of each individual. This section will explore the critical aspects of preparing for one-on-ones.

Review Project Updates

  1. Stay Informed

Take the time to stay up-to-date with the latest project updates, milestones, and progress. It includes understanding the current status of ongoing projects, any challenges faced, and upcoming deadlines.

  1. Analyze Project Metrics

Dive into relevant performance metrics, such as project timelines, budget, and quality metrics, to gain insights into the team’s performance and identify areas that require attention or improvement.

  1. Identify Achievements

Recognize and acknowledge the accomplishments and milestones achieved by the team members. Celebrating successes helps foster a positive and motivating work environment.

Assess Individual Performance and Goals

  1. Individual Performance Evaluation

Check the performance of each employee based on predefined goals and key performance indicators. Consider quantitative metrics (e.g., meeting project deadlines, meeting performance targets) and qualitative aspects (e.g., teamwork, problem-solving skills).

  1. Reflect on Previous Discussions

Recall previous one-on-one conversations and any specific action items or commitments made. Use these as a reference point for follow-up discussions and tracking progress.

  1. Understand Individual Goals

Familiarize yourself with the personal and professional goals of each team member. This includes understanding their aspirations, areas of interest, and long-term career objectives. Aligning individual goals with organizational objectives promotes engagement and motivation.

Tailor the Agenda

  1. Customizing the Agenda

Create a customized agenda for each one-on-one meeting based on the project updates, individual performance assessments, and identified goals. Prioritize topics of discussion that are most relevant and meaningful to the individual team member.

  1. Provide Advance Notice

Share the agenda with team members in advance, allowing them time to prepare their thoughts and come ready for the meeting. This promotes active participation and helps ensure that discussions are productive and focused.

Research and Gather Resources

  1. Collect Relevant Resources

Before the one-on-one meeting, gather any relevant resources, articles, or training materials that can support the discussion topics or help address the team member’s specific challenges or learning needs.

  1. Stay Updated on Industry Trends

Keep yourself informed about the latest trends, developments, and best practices in the engineering field. Sharing valuable insights and knowledge during one-on-ones can foster a learning culture and demonstrate your commitment to their professional growth.

Research conducted by the Harvard Business Review indicates that employees who perceive their managers as well-prepared for one-on-ones are more engaged, motivated, and satisfied with their work. Adequate preparation sets the stage for productive and meaningful discussions, enabling engineering managers to provide valuable guidance, address concerns, and drive the success of their teams.

Conducting Effective One-on-Ones

One-on-one meetings between engineering managers and their team members provide a valuable opportunity for effective communication and fostering a supportive work environment. Managers can enhance engagement and create a collaborative atmosphere by conducting these meetings with the right approach. This section will explore critical strategies for conducting effective one-on-ones.

  1. Actively Listen
  • Actively listening is a crucial skill for managers during one-on-one meetings.
  • Give undivided attention to team members and show genuine interest in their thoughts, concerns, and achievements.
  • Demonstrate empathy and understanding to create a safe space for open communication.
  • By listening actively, managers make team members feel heard and valued, increasing engagement and commitment.
  • Research conducted by Gallup indicates that employees who feel listened to and valued during one-on-ones are more likely to be engaged and committed to their work.
  1. Provide Feedback
  • Feedback is an essential component of one-on-one meetings.
  • Provide constructive feedback that is specific, actionable, and balanced.
  • Focus on both strengths and areas for improvement to encourage growth and development.
  • Timely feedback helps team members course-correct and make progress toward their goals.
  • Research from Gallup indicates that employees who receive regular feedback are more engaged and motivated.
  1. Ask Open-ended Questions
  • Asking open-ended questions encourages team members to share their thoughts, ideas, and challenges.
  • Open-ended questions promote critical thinking, reflection, and deeper discussions.
  • By asking relevant and thought-provoking questions, managers gain insight into team members’ perspectives and provide tailored guidance and support.
  • This approach fosters a collaborative environment where team members feel valued and empowered.
  1. Creating a Supportive and Collaborative Environment
  • The tone and atmosphere of one-on-one meetings significantly impact their effectiveness.
  • Managers should create a supportive environment where employees feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and concerns.
  • Encourage open dialogue, trust-building, and the exchange of ideas.
  • By fostering collaboration, managers can tap into their team’s collective intelligence and drive innovation.
  • Effective one-on-ones contribute to employee satisfaction and help foster a positive work culture.

Building Trust and Engagement

Trust is the foundation of any successful professional relationship. Engineering managers should foster trust by actively involving team members in decision-making, recognizing their achievements, and providing timely feedback.

Employee engagement can be enhanced by aligning personal aspirations with organizational goals. A study by Towers Watson found that organizations with high trust and engagement experience greater productivity and profitability.

Addressing Challenges and Difficult Conversations

Effectively navigating difficult conversations is crucial to fostering a culture of continuous improvement and learning within the team. By approaching these conversations with empathy and clarity, managers can create an environment where issues are addressed promptly and constructively. This approach has been proven to impact employee satisfaction and retention rates positively.

To address challenges and difficult conversations successfully, consider the following pointers:

  1. Create a Safe and Supportive Environment
  • Establish trust and psychological safety, where team members feel comfortable discussing challenges and raising concerns.
  • Emphasize that the purpose of the conversation is to find solutions and improve outcomes rather than assign blame.
  1. Approach with Empathy and Active Listening
  • Begin the conversation by demonstrating empathy and understanding of the team member’s perspective.
  • Actively listen to their concerns, allowing them to express themselves fully and ensuring they feel heard and validated.
  1. Focus on Problem-solving
  • Shift the focus from dwelling on the issue to finding solutions together.
  • Encourage the team members to participate actively in brainstorming potential solutions and approaches.
  1. Provide Constructive Feedback
  • Frame feedback constructively, emphasizing specific behaviors and their impact on the situation.
  • Offer guidance and suggestions for improvement, ensuring the feedback is actionable and leads to tangible results.
  1. Collaborate and Seek Mutual Understanding
  • Engage in a collaborative dialogue, seeking a shared understanding of the challenges.
  • Explore different perspectives and encourage the team members to contribute their insights and ideas.
  1. Find Common Ground and Reach Resolutions
  • Identify common goals and interests to find mutually agreeable solutions.
  • Work together to develop action plans that address the challenge effectively and prevent similar issues in the future.

Research conducted by The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) highlights the benefits of effective conflict resolution. It reveals that organizations with solid conflict management practices experience higher levels of job satisfaction among employees, leading to improved retention rates and a positive work environment.

Leveraging One-on-Ones for Employee Development

One-on-ones are ideal for discussing career aspirations, professional development opportunities, and skill-building initiatives. Managers should encourage their team members to set goals, provide mentorship, and support their growth by offering relevant resources and training. 

A survey by LinkedIn found that employees who receive regular career development discussions are more likely to stay with their current organization.

Tracking Progress and Follow-Up

Engineering managers should maintain records of discussions, action items, and agreements made during one-on-ones to ensure accountability and measure progress. Regularly following up on commitments reinforces a sense of responsibility and helps track professional growth. 

Technology and Tools for Enhanced One-on-Ones

Utilizing collaborative platforms, project management tools, and performance-tracking software streamlines communication, improves documentation and facilitates remote interactions. Reports show that organizations adopting digital tools experience higher employee engagement and productivity.

  • Collaborative Platforms: Platforms like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Google Workspace centralize communication, file sharing, and collaboration.
  • Project Management Tools: Tools such as Asana, Jira, and Trello help track project progress, assign tasks, and manage deadlines efficiently.
  • Performance Tracking Software: Software like 15Five, Lattice, and BambooHR provide individual and team performance insights, enabling data-driven feedback and goal management. Embracing technology enhances one-on-one effectiveness, improving communication, documentation, and remote interactions, ultimately boosting engagement and productivity.

Future Trends and Considerations for Engineering Manager One-on-Ones in 2023

As we move forward, emerging trends such as AI-driven performance analytics, remote work dynamics, and flexible work arrangements will shape the landscape of engineering managers. 

Managers should stay updated on industry developments and adapt their approaches accordingly. Research by Gartner predicts that by 2025, AI-driven tools will significantly enhance manager-employee interactions and provide data-driven insights.


Effective engineering manager one-on-ones drive success, employee engagement, and professional growth. By establishing a solid foundation, preparing thoroughly, fostering trust, and leveraging technology, managers can unlock the full potential of their teams in 2023 and beyond. Embracing ongoing learning and adapting to future trends will ensure that one-on-ones are valuable for nurturing talent and driving organizational success.