What are One-on-Ones?
Why does TEN7 do them?
What format do they take?
How does staff react to them?
JONATHAN FREED: Hello! You're listening to a TEN7 Audiocast. We're here today to talk about one-on-ones at TEN7. I'm Jonathan Freed, and I'm here with Ivan Stegic, founder and president of TEN7. Hello Ivan!
IVAN STEGIC: Hey, Jonathan! How's it going?
JONATHAN: Not bad. Beautiful day today. We're here to discuss a very important topic and that's the one-on-one sessions that we have with you. So at this time, I would just like to give you the opportunity to tell exactly what the one-on-ones are.
IVAN: Okay. So one-on-ones are regular meetings I have with every member of TEN7 on a monthly basis. I spend one half-hour with every member of the team. It's an open forum for each member to discuss whatever they want with me on a monthly basis.
JONATHAN: Why do you do them?
IVAN: Well, I do them for a number of reasons. First of all, I think it's important to be able to have a direct contact that's less formal, more casual, with everyone in the company. I think that's really important because it allows me to have a pulse on what people are thinking, saying, and doing and it allows me to keep in contact with everyone in the team. We started doing them 4 or 5 years ago when we first started increasing in size. We originally had the idea that we would take a walk and maybe spend lunch with every team member, and we spread that out over a couple of weeks a time and we eventually landed on one day, one afternoon. It happens to the last Thursday of the month and I spend from 2-5 PM, half an hour with every person on the team. It used to be that I'd do them at Bewitched downtown while we were still in the North Loop; now I do them using Zoom video.
JONATHAN: Doing it on Zoom does make it a lot easier because we're not restricted as to where we have to be when we do these meetings with you. Ivan, what format do these one-on-ones generally take?
IVAN: Generally they're 30 minutes with every team member. I usually start out by asking if there is an agenda. Sometimes people have agendas, sometimes people don't. Most times they don't. And I will usually try to ask three questions. One of them is what has your greatest success been in the last month, another one is what has your greatest challenge been in the last month, and I typically don't ask the question of "How are you doing?" because that just results in a question like "Fine" or "Not fine". I try to ask the question that forces the person to try to think about it. It is usually focused on the team member, and I always like to think of it and say that this is their time with me to bring up whatever issue they may have. I do take notes, and I also in some cases take direct quotes from individuals and read those back, kinda to jog the memory about what we talked about last time.
JONATHAN: I remember the first one-on-one I did with you, and it was really pleasant for a lot of reasons. I remember coming to the table and I sat down and pulled out an agenda and you said "You have an agenda!" And I said, "I do!" And that seemed to set the tone very well for all of the one-on-ones we've done together. Do all the staff members come to the one-on-ones with an agenda.
IVAN: No, it's very different. Some people like to talk about their personal challenges over the last week with the code that they're writing. Some people do come with agendas. Those that come with agendas typically are not developers. It's mentally challenging for me to be focused for 3 or 4 hours with all these individuals. It is different for every session that I do, and so it kinda keeps me on my toes, and I believe it's adding value to our company culture and the open lines of communication that we've always tried to keep.
JONATHAN: Well, what about staff reaction and your perceived impact of these one-on-one meetings?
IVAN: My hope is that the impact is actually for the team member, for the human I'm sitting with. My hope is that they have an avenue to have impact on the company and a direct line to me so that if there is an issue of any sort, even though I'm available whenever needed, at least there's this known check-in that can always be used to address any issues. And so my hope is that the reaction of the staff has always been, in my opinion, positive across the board, but that it's an avenue for them to have an impact on me, not the other way around.
JONATHAN: That brings us to the end of this Audiocast, and I would like to thank Ivan for sharing his insights today. Please visit us at ten7.com, and keep an eye out on the TEN7 blog for future Audiocasts. This is Jonathan Freed, and thank you for listening.