Contextualizing the 1-on-1

It's pretty common for engineering managers to have regularly scheduled 1-on-1 meetings with their engineers. Topics often include things like goal setting, problems the engineer needs help with, or a chance to air grievances that the engineer doesn't feel comfortable bringing up at other times.

Personally, I don't find myself coming to 1-on-1s with topics that I was holding onto specifically for that meeting. If I have an issue that needs attention, I'm not going to wait for a monthly meeting to bring it up.

My favorite topic for a 1-on-1 is everything that is happening at the scope that is beyond our day-to-day interactions. How is hiring going? So-and-so left 3 months ago--are we hiring a replacement?

What did you think about that announcement from the town hall? How is the work of our team being perceived by the broader organization? How is customer X liking feature Y that we launched recently?

How do you feel the team is executing toward our strategic goals for this quarter?

I want to "take the temperature" on a thermometer that I don't get to see often--get the context that I'm not getting on a day-to-day basis.

1-on-1s can be anything. They don't have to be a one-way venting session. They can just as easily go entirely the opposite way where we talk mainly about higher level things.