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Better Report, Better Manager - One-On-One Frameworks: Focus and Fears

Published 3/18/2022

What does a good 1-on-1 look like? We'll answer this in many different ways. For today's episode, I want to share a micro-framework for you to try out in your next 1-on-1 that could elicit some of your career's most critical conversations.

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Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
So what do you talk about in a good one on one? That's all we're talking about in today's episode of Developer Tea, my goal on the show is to help different developers like you find clarity, perspective, and purpose in their careers. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. And in the seven years or so that I've been doing this show, I have kept up somewhat of a reasonable boundary between what's going on in my life and what I talk about on this show. And one of the main reasons for that is because the show is intentionally short. And for the most part, you probably are not here to listen to me talk about my personal life very much. But I did want to mention that we missed an episode this week because I've been battling a little bit of a cold. And so you might hear that in my voice on this episode. So in a good one on one, what exactly do you talk about? The answer to this question really is, it depends. But I want to share with you at least one framework will probably do more in upcoming episodes that I like to think about when I'm doing one on ones with my reports. And if you take this framework to your manager, it's likely to produce much better value than just kind of shooting from the hip. And to that point, most of the time that is what we do. We shoot from the hip. We talk about the things that we're doing this week, maybe things that we noticed. And there's good time for this. In fact, you can even do this alongside the framework that I'm getting ready to give you, because the framework is very short and simple. The framework is fear and focus. Specifically, ask the question, what are you focused on right now or this week? And what are your current fears? That's it. That's all you have to talk about to have a reasonably productive one on one. We've talked about fear many times on this show, because very often fear is a good entry point, a gateway to discuss other emotions. Most of the time, the emotions that we have that are negative at work probably are rooted in some kind of fear. In fact, even the emotions that we have like resentment sometimes can be rooted in fear. Now, you don't have to treat every one on one like a counseling session necessarily. Certainly, if there is some deep-seated fears or interpersonal issues, then a one on one with your manager may not be the only place that you need to look to resolve that. So we can see many of these more complex interpersonal issues through the lens of fear and open the conversation from that perspective. For example, let's imagine that Jane is building a resentment against Tom, because Tom seems to be taking all of the interesting tasks on the board, leaving Jane with the more and ministrivia kind of work. Well, Jane doesn't like this, and she might build up resentment against Tom. So you might think, well, that's not fear, that's resentment. But we should ask why is that resentment occurring? You as a report, ask yourself, are you experiencing something like resentment? One example Jane might be experiencing resentment towards Tom is because she wants to have that more interesting work. And there might be an attached fear here that if this becomes the status quo, if Tom always gets the interesting work, and Jane goes down the route of that less interesting work, that it will become difficult to change. That people will just start handing Jane that boring work, and Tom will always get the interesting work. Another example of fear being a good instructor is when you're afraid of what you're focused on. So we'll talk a minute about the primary focus. This one's a little bit less complex than the fear, but it certainly is equally important. Being very clear about what your primary focus is, and aligning with your manager on what that primary focus is, is one of the most important things you can do for your career, but perhaps even more critically, being clear about what your focus is, is going to create a sense of agency for your productivity. What this means is that once you've identified what you're focused on, this gives you more of a sense of resolve to be able to say no to things that you're not focused on. And once you've identified and committed to that focus, then it also gives you less uncertainty about whether you should have chosen a different focus. Now switching back to the fear, sometimes we are afraid of what we are focused on. Perhaps we're afraid that we're not capable of accomplishing that particular goal, and discussing that with our manager might lead us towards some training or maybe pairing with somebody, or maybe just reassurance that they believe we are capable and that failure is okay. Or it might be the case that in fact your fears are well-founded, that this is a bad thing to focus on from a product perspective. Maybe it's the wrong thing to focus on and we need to work on our priorities. Hopefully you can see very quickly that this very simple kind of micro framework for your one-on-ones could elicit some of the most important discussions that you'll ever have with your manager, both at a macro level and at a micro level. I hope you'll try this out. You'll have to commit to it, just do it in a one-on-one, your next couple of one-on-ones, whether you're a manager or a report, you can suggest this to whatever the opposite of that is for you. And then let me know how it goes. You can join us in our Developer Tea Discord to discuss this topic and pretty much any other topic that you bring to the table. Head over to developertea.com slash discord to join for free today. As you might be able to hear, I'm reaching the limit of my vocal capabilities for the day, and I hope you'll take this micro framework as a challenge to you and as an encouraging opportunity to have important discussions. Thanks so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. And until next time, enjoy your tea.