1-on-1 Meetings

1-on-1 meetings at VSHN are a tool for personal reflection, similar to retros that are a tool for group reflection. Reflection in this context can mean both "what does/doesn’t work well" and "what’s mentally blocking me." They’re recommended but not mandatory; just another formal communication channel, open to anyone interested.

Other companies use 1-on-1 meetings for "weekly standups with your line manager," since we’ve daily standups and don’t have line managers this isn’t what we do.

Regular 1-on-1 meetings

Finding a VSHNeer to do 1-on-1 meetings with

  • Your Mentor is the first person to have regular 1-on-1 meetings with (although you might want to talk to them more often than weekly)

  • Invite someone you think might give you good feedback. The VSHNeers Delegate Circle has a list of volunteers.

  • We suggest doing at least one recurring 1-on-1 meeting with a peer, two or three might make sense to get more diverse feedback from VSHNeers in other jobs and teams. Too many don’t make sense because they don’t provide more value and use up everyone’s time.

  • If you feel you would like to change who you do 1-on-1 meetings with please give the other VSHNeer a notice period to find another peer to have meetings with


  • Prepare for a 1-on-1 by taking time to reflect what has been the best and worst events in the past week, what has been a source of joy and of frustration, what has been mentally blocking you, what are you grateful for?

  • For each item: why is the item so important to you? What feelings does the item spark in you? Is there an underlying issue that the item might be related to?

  • Write down your findings


  • 30 minute meeting, giving each VSHNeer 15 minutes, weekly or fortnightly

  • Each VSHNeer sharing their prepared reflection with the other

  • The other VSHNeer listening, helping the reflecting VSHNeer to find the root cause, the why

  • The process could also be described as "postmortems for unhappiness"

Tips for the listening VSHNeer

  • Help the other VSHNeer to gig deeper into the why by asking for example:

    • "why is this so important to you?"

    • "Why do you feel this way?"

    • "what do you think you can do about it?"

  • Don’t judge, comment or try to solve the problem but instead help the reflecting VSHNeer to find (and eventually solve) the underlying issue themselves!

  • Take (brief) notes, fill in details using (non-suggestive) clarifying questions and repeat back what you understood in your own words for the reflecting VSHNeer to confirm if that was indeed what they meant: “What I heard you say is that you can’t do x with y. Did I get that right?”

  • Don’t provide suggestions/tips/advice what the other person should do (thereby solving the other persons problem) but instead share your own similar experiences (good and bad) as inputs for the reflecting VSHNeer to figure out a solution themselves

  • Everything discussed in a 1-on-1 meeting is confidential by default. If you want to talk about issues with third parties you have to get specific explicit permission first. The Chatham House Rule is applied to root causes unless specified otherwise.

  • Be present and listen actively. For physical meetings electronic devices might be distracting.

  • Use open body language. Don’t lean back with your arms crossed.

  • Don’t let them cancel more than one 1-on-1 in a row, insist on rescheduling then. There are always more urgent things happening and canceling once is OK. You need to create accountability for the self-reflection process.

  • When you feel the reflecting VSHNeer is telling you what they’re currently doing (like in a standup) interrupt politely and bring the discussion back to "what’s mentally blocking you?"


  • Reciprocal: both VSHNeer peers coach each other equally

  • Recurring: work on blocking issues before they get too big

  • Relationship: build up a relationship based on trust to share emotions and allow to go deeper into the why

  • Accountability for doing reflection and for following up with findings

  • Formulate a Driver for an organizational problem to solve or opportunity to leverage


  • Establishing a hierarchy between VSHNeers

  • Unreflected ranting

  • Talking about other people behind their backs

1-on-1 Coaching session

If, for example during a 1-on-1 meeting, you discover an issue you want to discuss with somebody that doesn’t fit into the 15 minutes allocated 1-on-1 time you can request another VSHNeer or an external coach (PeopleOps can book one for you) for a coaching session.


  • The default duration is one hour

  • The VSHNeers Delegate Circle has a list of volunteer VSHNeer coaches ready to talk to. Just ping one of the coaches over e-mail or chat, and schedule a one hour session. By the way, this coaching group of VSHNeers is open to anyone and everyone to join.

  • Following meetings best practices, set an agenda of topics to talk about. These could range from professional growth, requests of mentorship, to more personal topics, and everything in between, usually related to our day-to-day life in VSHN.

  • Talking is cathartic; even if the session seems fruitless, that’s OK. Talking about problems is the first step towards the solution.

  • It’s not the role of the coach to solve the problems for the coachee, but rather, if possible, to guide them in the right direction.

  • coaching sessions aren’t status updates about projects or customers. They’re about specific personal situations, which might or might not be work-related, but which have a direct impact in our happiness or productivity.

Typical Subjects

The following is a typical list of subjects (by no means exhaustive) to talk about during coaching sessions:

  • Personal issues that have a direct effect in work.

  • Professional goals: growth, change, etc.

  • Requesting for advice about certifications, trainings, etc.

  • Voicing out unspoken issues that for any reason would not be shared in a team setting (for example, during a Scrum retrospective.)

  • Conflicts between team and personal goals.

  • Impediments or conflicts blocking people to achieve their goals or do their work.

Tips for Coachees

  • Have clear expectations.

  • Contact your coach for availability, and send a meeting request with a concrete time and agenda for the meeting.

  • It’s usually recommended to talk to a coach who isn’t working in the same team or job as you, so that you can get a different perspective about the issue at hand.

  • Furthermore it could absolutely make sense to consider a member of the management or one of the founders of VSHN for a coaching session. This can be very helpful to understand why some things are how they’re (history, business, etc.) and to give management a deeper insight into what’s bothering you.

  • Think about the discussion beforehand, and write down the main points of the conversation. Use those notes during the coaching session.

  • During the meeting, be open and share as much as possible of the problem at hand. It’s OK to be emotional about some subjects. You should feel safe at all times.

  • Drive the meeting towards your goals, whatever they might be. Make specific questions, and repeat them if the answer wasn’t clear or satisfactory.

  • Remember that the coach won’t solve the issue at hand; they can, at most, provide some of their own previous experiences or guidelines for you to solve it.

  • If you feel like it, request a follow-up session a few months later.

  • It’s OK to stop a coaching session before the scheduled end of the meeting if it’s not going in the direction you expected or if all your topics have been addressed.

  • Above all, be kind to the coach. We’re human after all.

Tips for Coaches

  • Above all, be kind to the coachee. We’re human after all.

  • Show empathy. Mean it. Expect to learn.

  • You’ve been approached for a reason. Your attitude can make or break the meeting. Make it worthy.

  • If possible, meet somewhere else than a meeting room, like a park or a café. A change of scenery can be of great help.

  • Remember the 80–20 rule: only speak 20%, and listen 80% of the time.

  • Listen carefully; leave your smartphone and your laptop in your desk, and pay attention to what you’re being told. Take notes if that can help.

  • Focus on the issue at hand; particularly if you work closely with the other person, don’t let the day-to-day routine into the meeting. Concentrate your efforts in the person and the problem at hand.

  • Treat any information shared by the coachee with confidentiality and respect.

  • Have a bit of thick skin. Some of the feedback from the coachee you’ll get might be negative, but understand the context and request for more information if needed.

  • Open the door to a follow-up session a few months later.

  • If required, and if the coachee agrees, get in touch with PeopleOps after the coaching session.