A huge part of our job as managers is to enhance human interactions with processes. Trello is the best tool in the world for that, and I use it constantly. There's a lot written already about how Trello is the best tool to track work for your team, however, it’s also key that you run 1:1 meetings and retrospectives via Trello to make interactions more effective and your team happier.
Trello puts the humans first and lets the process take care of itself (with maybe a little help from you).
The 1:1 meeting is the core of your relationship with the folks who report to you. Since you should be handling status with project and team rituals, this is the time for focusing on your report's needs. These should be happening by default for 30 minutes every week. You should be canceling these very rarely.
By jotting down weekly 1:1 notes in Trello with your team members, you can always share the same context instead of capturing notes siloed off somewhere else—things like vacation time, questions, or even catching up on that movie you just watched. The additional ability to move cards left-to-right keeps each meeting you have running smoothly.
I have a Trello board set up for every 1:1 meeting I have. Each board has the essential recurring meeting lists of "To Discuss", "Ongoing", "Discussed", and "Reference" by default. One expert tip is to set a fun or calming background for this board. 1:1s can sometimes cover intense topics, and any small things you can do to create a safe space for your team member go a long way.
"To Discuss" is where you or your report can add things to talk about the next time you meet. You should watch this board for all changes and suggest your team members do the same. By watching the board for new activity, you'll receive a Trello notification whenever anything changes, so you know what will be coming up in discussion.
Be kind to each other and spend some time adding additional context to the card. This could be some additional comments on the card, links to Slack conversations, attached Confluence pages, or anything else that might be a helpful reference for your discussion.
Many things can be handled asynchronously on a card outside of a meeting! Consider doing that in the comments as you have time throughout the week and don't have to wait until next time.
If you finish talking about a topic on the card or during your meeting, move it on to "Discussed". If there are still some remaining questions or you want to keep checking in on, move the card to "Ongoing".
If there's still a conversation to be had about a topic, or it's something you want to make sure you hit on every time you meet, move cards into "Ongoing". I like to start meetings by covering "Ongoing" to make sure they don't get lost, and notice if talking about them each time begins to feel pointless.
When they stop being helpful, or they've concluded, move these on to "Discussed".
"Discussed" is an excellent record for everyone involved about the things you've talked about in the past. Future-you will appreciate past-you's efforts in taking notes on cards you've talked about, so drop comments as they move onto this stage.
If this list starts to get too long, rename the list with the date (like "Discussed 2021-03-01") and make a fresh "Discussed" list.
The "Reference" list can be a high leverage portion of the board. Put individual growth goals, specific project items, fun GIFs you both like, or any other things you want to remember here.
I like to ask and keep the answers to Lara Hogan's Questions For Our First 1:1 here. If you're setting up your 1:1 Trello board for the first time, ask them now, it's never too late.
Like the 1:1, a retro is the most important meeting you can have with each person on your team—the retrospective is the most crucial meeting your team can have.
As a manager, it is your job to create a safe space for every team member to talk about ways the team can be doing better, difficult things, and practices that the team can change. The retro is also an incredible opportunity to celebrate the team's successes.
You should default to having a retrospective every two weeks. The first few of these you run might not have many significant topics come up but keep at it. Your team has to know that this is an integral part of how your team works and that everything is fair game. One tactic to help create that space is to seed the conversation with topics like "How are we feeling about (something)" and talk about your own failures, fears, or concerns.
The process for a successful retro is simple:
- Review action items from the previous retro
- Play some music and collect "Went Well" items
- Talk through each of the "Went Well" items
- Play some music and collect "To Discuss" topics
- Talk through "To Discuss" topics and collect action items in the "Action Items" cards
- Prepare the board for the next retro.
Review Action Items
Defining things to do in response to problems is one of the critical aspects of a retrospective. Right after starting the retro, review the checklists you created last time. Check-in on the people who said they'd move those tasks forward. For each check-item, decide to keep them in action items here, capture them somewhere else (like your team's work board), or discard them as unnecessary.
At this stage, create a card for today's retro with the date (Like "Retro 2021-03-01") in the "Action Items" list and create a checklist on that card. You'll use it to collect action items from the "To Discuss" conversation.
Play Some Music And Collect "Went Well" Items
"Went Well" is the place to commemorate things that have gone well over the past couple of weeks. Think of the good things. Individual accomplishments, team accomplishments, gratitude, congratulations—they're all fair game here. My team was recently very understanding as I put "the vibes on the team feel good" in this list a few weeks ago.
Some other examples:
- Alice helped me work through the Apple Problem.
- Bob is an expert at Billing and helps everyone else learn.
- We shipped Blue Cheetah, which we've been working on for months.
Each person should have the Trello board up and add items individually in this phase. As the creator, add your face to the card (with "Add Members" or the spacebar hotkey). Since silence can be awkward, play some music and share that with the team while they're filling out "Went Well" for a few minutes. (If you're using Zoom, this is a checkbox while you’re sharing the screen to "Share Computer Audio".)
You can see cards being created on Trello in real-time and see when they start slowing down. After a few minutes (maybe 5?) and when the volume of cards has slowed, move on to the next step. Don't cut off too early. Sometimes, sitting with nothing happening is essential to get ideas out on the board.
As the facilitator, sort the items here, so the same person's cards are all together in blocks.
Talk Through The "Went Well" Items
Share your screen and pull open the first card in the list. Give the floor to the person who added the card and let them add additional context. This kind of discussion topic shouldn't raise many conversations, but do jump in (and encourage your team to jump in!) with enhancements of the topic. After the presenter is done talking about their subject, take a minute to clap or snap fingers or give the hand signs you use to share congratulations on Zoom.
Use the "j" keyboard shortcut to move on to the next card and repeat the same process ("k" will move you back up the list).
Play Some Music And Collect "To Discuss" Topics
Share some music again, just like with "Went Well". These topics will be slower to come out of the team. If you're recently starting this retro practice, choose some cards to seed here to set the tone for what goes in this list. After you've run a few retros, if nothing is coming out, still have the group wait for the clock to run out on adding items. Often people will come up with things that they weren't sure they wanted to talk about as the clock ticks down.
After you cut off card adding, with the same heuristics you used in "Went Well", ask the team to vote on cards using the voting Power-Up. You can also hover cards and hit "v" to vote.
Sort the list by votes (button in the list header), and move to the conversation.
Talk Through "To Discuss" Topics
Run through this list from top to bottom. If you have enough context on the topic to present it, do so. Otherwise, ask the person who created that card to present it. Talking through each of these cards will test your facilitation skills, but this is crucial in the retrospective.
Your goal is to make sure all voices and points of view are heard and considered, as well as identify actions to solve any problems. This can mean calling specifically on people who aren't as eager to jump into a conversation or asking for consensus or dissent calls across the group with a thumbs up/thumbs down. Make sure to let conversations play out, but don't let anyone dominate the conversation, and certainly don't monopolize the conversation yourself. When the discussion is starting to circle, move on to different topics, or naturally finish, it's time to finish this topic. Try to synthesize what the team has said into the next steps and put them into the checklist on the "Action Items" card.
There may be many cards to cover! The more effective you are as a facilitator in making sure everyone is heard and collecting concrete items, the better this will go. If you're not good at it yet, you will get good at it quickly with practice.
If you run out of time to get to all the cards, do not remove them. Those cards are going to be here for you next time. It's crucial not to let the minority voices of your team be washed out. If even one person wants to talk about a topic, let it stay here until you talk about it as a team.
After you've finished working through these cards or you've run out of time, you're done.
Prepare The Board For The Next Retro.
There are a few mechanical steps to do here to set everything up for next time.
If you didn't do this already, collect action items from your discussions in the card you created in the "Action Items" list.
Create a new list like "Retro 2021-03-01" to the right of the "To Discuss" list.
Move all cards that the team discussed into that new list. Usually, this means all "Went Well" cards and most or all of the "To Discuss" cards.
You should already be using Trello to track your work. On that same board you're using to track your team's work, create an "Incoming" list. Use that to triage work requests from outside your team and list meeting topics for your weekly team meeting.
Every recurring meeting you have should have a Trello board to back it. Start with the basic "To Discuss"/"Ongoing"/"Discussed" framework we covered for 1:1s, and modify it as beneficial for your team. Make sure to link it from the meeting invite so people can add agenda items and do pre-work there.
Overall, keep it light. Everything we talked about here can be heavy. Use card covers and custom backgrounds to remind everyone that we don't have to take ourselves seriously even though we take our work seriously.
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