What is your "one thing"?

Since being at UserTesting I have had a couple of roles over the course of the five and half years. From being the sole front-end engineer to becoming that more well rounded full stack engineer and now, for the past year and a half, I have helped manage grow other fellow engineers. Without any exact formal management training, I leaned heavily on reading books and following by example of other highly regarded managers.

Multi-tasking is hard

I regularly perform one-on-ones with each of my direct reports. It’s not only my time to check in with them, but also theirs to express any concerns or bring up any questions they might have. Some one-on-ones are fruitful, others are still fruitful, but end up being more quick chats as I work directly on project squads with most of my direct reports. This leads to knowing what has been going on with their daily work life on a daily basis.

One practice that I have adopted over time is the use of the “one thing” concept. UserTesting actually just started officially adopting this concept on the quarterly basis which has been great. On the outside, it is very simple in nature, but it can lead to growth in specific areas very easily due to hyper focus.

It is hard for human beings to multi-task on items. We do this everyday not only in our work lives, but more than likely at home too. Utilizing the “one thing” concept allows one to focus on a single item to achieve or get better at over the course of a time period. At my check-ins with my directs, I always make sure to ask how their “one thing” is going. It gives us a common talking point to work towards.

Choosing a “one thing”

This is the hard part. When tasked with this question on focus, typically there are many things to pick from. When I bring up this question to my directs at the start of the quarter, I tend to have them thing about few things to achieve their ideal “one thing.”

  • What is your squad focused on for this quarter and is there anything outside of that you can do to bolster their success?
  • In five years from now, where do you want to be or do?
  • Is there something you have been putting on the back burner for sometime you want to pull forward?
  • Is there a technology, department, process, etc. you want to know more about?

Posing these simple questions helps us hone in on what would be their “one thing.” If a more deep dive is needed after choosing, it’s simple to focus even further. “One things” tend to range from “I want to be more of a leader in the company” to “I want to learn more about things outside our department” to even “I want to learn a new language.”

Accountability and check-in is key

After choosing that “one thing,” making sure you follow-up with your direct is a key to success. Always make sure to ask how they are coming with their “one thing” and if there is anything you can do to remove roadblocks or make things easier to achieve. A quarter goes by very quickly and sometimes a “one thing” can not be achieved in one quarter which is totally acceptable. Making progress towards accomplishment is more important than forcing or just quitting when the time comes.

So, I have to ask, what is your “one thing”?

Filed under: Life
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