Michael “Rands” Lopp Shares Tips for Running Great 1:1s

When we think of software developers, most of us think of people more comfortable with zeros and ones than they are with people.

We hosted a web seminar with Michael Lopp, a man who has done more than anyone I know to dismantle this stereotype. Indeed, as he writes in his highly entertaining book, “Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager,” Michael recognized
early on that the techniques you employ to manage bits of information seldom work on people.

On his popular blog “Rands in Repose,” Michael has been writing since the mid-1990s with great humor and insight about management—a subject that in less capable hands can quickly veer of course into worthless platitudes.

Michael’s definition of a great manager is deceptively simple—and profound: “See the people who work with you.”

“Every single person with whom you work has a vastly diferent set of needs. It is your full-time job to listen to these people and mentally document how they are built. This is your most important job.”

Watch the video and slides below. Here are a few highlights:

1. People go off the rails in quiet ways

The root cause of most employment disasters is often something small. You need to really see your people so you can recognize the signs

2. Meet 1:1 at the same time every week

The 1:1 shouldn’t be a status update. It’s an opportunity to have a real conversation with your direct reports about what’s really going on.

3. Let them vent

Everyone needs a safe place to express their frustrations. Don’t interrupt or try to provide solutions. Just listen.

4. Ask if they are bored

Most employees are happier and more engaged at work when they are challenged. Make sure their work hasn’t become rote or repetitive.

5. Set well defined contracts for crap work

Work can’t be interesting all the time. But it shouldn’t be that way forever. Make sure team members know how long they will have to spend on less engaging tasks—and balance them out with more exciting work.

Every tip Michael shares is something you can apply immediately—today. They’re not big, complex engagement processes or retention strategies.

Watch the video

See the slides

About Michael Lopp

Michael Lopp’s incisive take on being an engineer in Silicon Valley in his blog “Rands in Repose” has won him a devoted following and a place in “The Best Software Writing I.”

A former senior engineering manager at Apple, Michael now works on special projects for Palantir Technologies.

He is the author of the books “Being Geek : A Software Developer’s Handbook” and “Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager.”



Nick Stein is the Director of Marketing and Communications at Salesforce A former staff writer at FORTUNE and current affairs producer at CBC News, Stein's work has received three Business Journalist of the Year awards, a CAJ award, and has been anthologized in the Best Business Stories of the Year. He holds a BA from McGill University and a masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.