WovenTeams Podcast: One on ones for scaling software teams

by Jason Evanish, CEO Get Lighthouse, Inc.

Do you like listening to podcast interviews? Have questions about being a good manager in quarantine, or about having great 1 on 1s?

Then, the interview of Jason Evanish, CEO of Get Lighthouse, on the WovenTeams "Scaling Software Teams" podcast is perfect for you.

Unfortunately, they weren't able to provide a working embed code, so here's a link to listen to it on Apple Podcasts:


Or on their site here.

Screen Shot 2020 06 07 at 1.05.09 AM

Scaling Software Teams Podcast: Interview with Lighthouse CEO, Jason Evanish, on One-on-Ones.

As you listen, you can follow along to some of the key questions with our show notes below. Check out the links throughout for further reading on the topics that most apply to your situation.

And if you have any follow up questions, leave a comment and we'll weigh in with an answer so everyone benefits.

1) What are the biggest things a manager needs to do to be successful?

There are a few key things every manager needs to do to be a great leader of their team. I spoke about this at the Culture Summit in San Francisco in 2015.

Sadly, they no longer have the video up, but my slides are above.

The 3 keys are:

  1. Build Rapport: Show you care about your team, learn what motivates and drives them, and create psychological safety.
  2. Fix Problems with 1 on 1s: You can coach your team, give them feedback and praise, ask them insightful questions, and more...all that help your team work better together and thrive.
  3. Grow Your People: The #1 perk people want, and that can keep people happy and motivated is to help them grow.

These 3 keys lay the foundation for everything you do as a manager, because when you take care of these things, all the requests, and needs you have for your team become a lot easier.

You also can build deep loyalty, as these are the things that truly make people happy long term at work.

Ben Horowitz Manager asks questions Get Lighthouse Blog

2) What should I talk about in 1 on 1s?

1 on 1s are a great tool for managers to solve a variety of problems and uncover a variety of valuable insights. It's why status updates are a waste in 1 on 1s, and you should get them out of your 1 on 1s.

Instead, use 1 on 1s to do all kinds of things including:

  • Relieve stress: Use them as a pressure relief valve to talk about your team's frustrations, ideas, feedback, and challenges.
  • Show crisis leadership skills: In times of crisis you need to be more present, accountable, and hopeful. 1 on 1s are a great time to address concerns, and share your vision for turning the corner.
  • Support your team: Whether they have issues with a colleague, need something for their desk/productivity, or looking to learn, 1 on 1s give you focused time.
  • Shop ideas and get buy in: The best ideas and initiatives have your team's support. Build it by sharing new ideas and then listening to your team's reactions, concerns, and feedback in 1 on 1s.
  • Provide career development: Bad managers never get around to talking about their teams' careers. Good ones check in every month or two in 1 on 1s and help their team members make real progress.

And there's a whole lot more you can cover, which is why we have this post with hundreds of great 1 on 1 questions awesome managers ask their teams.

Andy Grove Value of 1 on 1s get lighthouse blog

3) How often should you have 1 on 1s with each person on your team?

Ideally, you'd meet every week for 1 hour with everyone. But if you have a big team you probably can't manage that in your schedule. That means you should customize how often you meet with people on your team.

Meet more often with:

Meet less often with:

  • People you know well and have a long standing, healthy relationship with.
  • Team members who demonstrate a strong ability to come to you with problems.
  • When you have a bigger team, you'll likely have to reduce meeting frequency for everyone, while focusing on developing some leaders on your team to help.

Listen to the episode to also hear about choosing how long to meet for depending on your specific circumstances.

remote work no detachment

4) What can managers do in today's situation where everyone is remote?

Remote work is a rising trend that creates many challenges. Leading a remote team suddenly in COVID is even harder.

A few of the things we talked about are important for you to do as a leader:

  1. Support them in having a healthy routine set up
  2. Talk about their work environment, so they can be more productive and effective.
  3. Meet more often to talk about concerns, questions, layoffs, etc.
  4. Encourage them to have scheduled peer 1 on 1s with people they need to collaborate with on other teams or would normally meet organically in the office.

The most important thing to recognize is that there's a lot of change that has happened. With change comes uncertainty, and as a manager, your job is to help your team navigate these changes effectively.

dilbert managing up

5) What do you do if you have a boss who needs to learn these tactics?

The most important thing you can do for your career is to work at better managing up.

This means preparing things for your 1 on 1 and bringing topics to discuss so they don't have to dig for it from you. You may even want to ask them questions like these so you work better together.

Meanwhile, if you have a manager who isn't so great at making the most of your 1 on 1s, then these tips can help you have effective 1 on 1s with them thanks to a little extra effort by you.

Thanks to the Woven Team for having me on their podcast!

Jason Evanish

Jason Evanish

As the founder and CEO of Get Lighthouse, Inc, Jason and the Lighthouse team have helped managers grow their leadership skills in dozens of countries around the world. They’ve worked with a variety of companies from non-profits to high growth startups, and government organizations to well known, publicly traded companies. Jason has also been featured in publications including NPR, the Wall Street Journal, and Fast Company.

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