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1-1s: Your secret weapon of retaining talent

How to make the most out of your 1-1s and build strong relationships with your employees

People don’t leave jobs they leave managers

I have worked in the software industry at companies like Microsoft, Google, and Coda for more than two decades, roughly half of them as an IC and the other half in leadership positions. As a leader, one of my top priorities has been to keep my team motivated, engaged and making sure I retain my best people. One of the things I learned early on is - People don’t leave jobs, they leave managers.

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1-1s: The Key to Building Strong Manager-Employee Relationships


I am Himanshu. 👋 I am the head of Core product engineering at Coda. Throughout my career I have had the luxury of working with some of the managers I have fond memories with, and then some not as much. I have also had the benefit of being manager and trying to do for my employees what I wished my manager had done for me. Through my mistakes and learnings I built this template on how to make the most out of 1-1s with your employee and using it as a way to build a strong relationship. I would love to hear your feedback as you read through it and try it out. You can find me on ,
, and at .

While there is a lot that you will likely cover in a 1-1, I strongly recommend making proactive time and space for the following
Set clear expectations and update them regularly - One of the most important thing you can do as a manager to help your employees succeed, is to set very clear expectations with them on what success looks like for you. And once these are set, it is important to make sure we periodically update them to keep them relevant. I like to take an approach that typically looks like the following
In my first 1-1 with them I will set expectations for an initial period. For employees that are new to the company this could be as small as for the first two weeks, and for employees that have been in the company for a long time and are just going through a manager change this could be for up to six months
Update the expectations as the time period they were set for is coming to an end. I never set expectations for more than a full year so at the very least we would update this every year. I typically revisit these every six months.

Provide a clear framework for career growth and provide the support needed - This is an aspect where while some employees are very proactive, a lot of employees do not pay attention to it. However, this is one of the most important things you can do for employee when it comes to long term retention, satisfaction, and happiness levels of an employee. When done right, it results in employees feeling more motivated, engaged, and plugged in and you as the manager get the opportunity to better understand the desires of your employee which is a win-win. Over the course of my career I have tried several different formant of nudging employees on how to think about career growth. One of the easy traps to fall in here is to focus this conversation on who does the employee get to the next level or stage that your company may have created for employees. However, it is important to steer this conversation away from advancing career levels even though that may be an outcome, and focus it on what type of work would they rather be doing, and what do they enjoy. To help with that I have created a template that I share with my employees and ask them to structure their thoughts using it. I ask them to think about next 5- 10 years first, then next 12 months. After that we both have a discussion around those and identify what opportunities can I help create for them that fit into their 12 month goals and we go from there. My goal is to do this discussion at least once a year.

Continuous feedback loop to celebrate wins and share constructive feedback -

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