Taking Notes in In-Person One-on-Ones

As conditions improve in the US, I’m preparing to return to work from an office. If you’re also in the US, you might already be a stalwart of the office and a few months or weeks ahead of me. Maybe you and your company are waiting it out a bit longer, and that’s fine. A lot of us are remembering old practices in different ways. I am preparing for what in-person one-on-ones will be like after being fully remote for almost 18 months. I had previously built up principles for my one-on-ones that I have applied in my remote setup, and I’m starting to think about how I can combine lessons learned remotely to evolve my in-person one-on-ones.

One-on-one Principles

  1. Transparent. I want one-on-ones to build trust. A great way to do this is to be open with how I am capturing the conversation.
  2. Collaborative. Building something together and including others’ voices is another good way to build trust.
  3. Encourage recall. I’ll reference one-one-one notes often: before the next one-one-one, if a topic comes up again or as a reminder of context during a review cycle.
  4. When is almost as important as what. The notes should tell a story. There’s context in knowing when topics were worth talking about and signal in seeing those topics change over time.

As I read back through my principles, they are guided by trust-building. My practices must build trust. Starting there, I know I want to get back to analog note-taking. It’s harder to build trust when there are electronic devices between people, so I’ll return to my notebook to take notes. In turn, I’ll have to build transparency and collaboration in other ways. With the handwritten notes, however, I will strengthen my recall.

In turn, I’ll lean into encouraging transparency and collaboration before and after the one-on-one. By continuing to keep a digital, shared place for my team member and I to build an agenda, I can encourage collaboration before one-on-ones. By contributing to building an agenda myself, I can encourage transparency.

After the one-on-ones, I plan on returning to pushing my notes to a shared, digital spot. That transcription has to be tight and high-signal to ensure I follow through. There should be a nice reinforcement here where the more concise my notes, the more I will have to actively listen to my team member which will also build greater trust over time. The trick I am still trying to solve for is encouraging my team member to check in on the shared, digital notes after I compile them to nudge them toward post-one-on-one collaboration. This feels tougher. I’m open to ideas here!

Going back to the office means remembering some old habits, but I’m eager to leverage these last eighteen months. And of course knowing that I have both in-person and remote one-on-one best practices will only make me more prepared when circumstances push a one-on-one remote.

Dan Ubilla is obsessed with the craft of engineering management

He writes every two weeks. Sign up below for early access to his blog posts.

    We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.