One-on-one Meetings

One-on-one meetings at VSHN are a tool for recurring personal reflection, akin to what team retros are for recurring 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.

In other companies, one-on-one meetings are used as "weekly standups with your line manager"; since we’ve daily standups and we don’t have line managers, this isn’t what we do.

A follow up for an issue might be driven through the Conflict Resolution Process, or to formulate an organizational driver. For larger issues identified in a one-on-one, a followup personal coaching session might make sense.

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

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

  • Invite someone from another team you think might give you good feedback. The People Interest Group has a list of volunteers.

  • We suggest doing at least one recurring one-on-one meeting with a peer; two or three might make sense to get more diverse feedback from VSHNeers in other jobs and teams. Doing more than three doesn’t realyl make sense, because they don’t provide additional value, and could be an effective waste of time.

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


  • Prepare for a one-on-one by taking time to reflect what has been the best and worst events in the past few weeks; what has been a source of joy and of frustration? What has been mentally blocking you? And 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 in a private document (for example in your personal wiki space), and collect other complementary topics to discuss as well.


  • One on ones are weekly 25-minute meetings, giving each VSHNeer 10 minutes of reflection time after 5 minutes of check-in and socializing

  • Each VSHNeer shares their reflections with the other.

  • The other VSHNeer actively listens, helping the reflecting VSHNeer to find a root cause, the why.

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

Tips for the listening VSHNeer

  • Help the other VSHNeer dig deeper into the why by asking, for example:

    • "Why is this so important to you?"

    • "Why do you feel this way?"

    • "What could be causing this issue for you?"

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

    • "What’s holding you back to just do 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, confidential notes (for example in your personal wiki space), fill in details through clarification 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 because of y. Did I get that right?"

    • Don’t provide suggestions, tips, or advice about what the other person should do, so as to try to solve the other person’s problems. Giving advice implies that you know more about the other person’s issue than they do, which is rarely true, and implies inequality. Trying to solve the other VSHNeers problem also prohibits them from learning how to solve problems by themselves.

    • You may instead share your own similar experiences (good and bad) as inputs for the reflecting VSHNeer to figure out a solution themselves.

    • Questions serve the dual purpose of repeating what you understood from the other person, and for you to select a better fitting experience to share, not for personal curiosity, to steer a person towards a solution, or to wrap advice as a question.

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

  • Be present and listen actively. Don’t multitask. 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 one-on-one 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?" or "what has been a source of happiness/unhappiness for you?"


  • Peer to peer coaching: getting help to solve my issues myself.

  • 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 and write down tensions, drivers, or go through the Conflict Resolution Process.


  • For the listening VSHNeer to solve the problems of the reflecting VSHNeer.

  • Establishing a hierarchy between VSHNeers.

  • Unreflected ranting.

  • Talking about other people behind their backs.

Additional reading