Regular one-on-ones with managers seem to be pretty common in today’s world. Some are shorter. Some are longer. Some are more formal, and others are more relaxed. Regardless of the length or style of these check-ins, they’re important opportunities for valuable feedback, guidance, and relationship building. But unfortunately, people often don’t take full advantage of them.
So, I’ve compiled some advice on making sure that you get the most out of your one-on-ones.
1. Run the meetings.
That’s right. Your manager may be the leader in your relationship most of the time, but these 1:1s should really be your time to step up to the plate. By creating clear agendas and running the show, you get valuable experience leading meetings and can direct them to maximize your time with your manager. And if they seem to be the showrunner, explain why you think it would be better for you to take the reins.
2. Take advantage of their undivided attention.
Regardless of your preferred meeting style, make sure to fully value this you-focused time with your manager. Always discuss any concerns, goals, and ideas during these meetings. Your manager’s job is to help you succeed, thrive in your job, and stay engaged - so help them help you by sharing important thoughts with them.
And, if there’s a sensitive topic that you feel you need to discuss - whether it’s about your performance or anything else - it’s important that you not shy away from discussing it, getting their advice, and showing your desire to grow and learn from this situation.
If you’re planning to present a new idea, you don’t need to arm yourself with a 40-slide PowerPoint deck. But, you should be prepared with solid reasons why your team or company should adopt it.
→ For example: “I think we should have weekly happy hour mixers at the office. I think this would help the company in several ways:
- It would foster a stronger sense of community and collegiality among coworkers.
- It would make the culture more attractive to current and potential employees - leading to better retention and recruitment results.
- Since we work in such a fast-paced, demanding environment, it would be good to help employees relax and blow off some steam - helping them avoid burnout and enjoy their jobs more.
And, if you don’t have anything specific to discuss, be prepared to use their time effectively in other ways.
- For instance, you can ask them to give you a sort of mini performance review.
- Or, you can take time to do some goal-setting exercises with them.
3. Seek Feedback.
A wise friend once told me, “Feedback is a gift.” At first, it was a little hard for me to see it that way. But, once I started embracing this perspective more, I began increasing my learning and growing significantly - by actually looking forward to feedback and valuing it as a means to become the best and most successful me that I can be.
When you create an atmosphere where your manager feels comfortable sharing honest feedback - by being open and candid yourself and being receptive to receiving it - you’ll get a very clear sense of how you’re progressing and how you can improve.
If they don’t offer any feedback, you can try to get some through open-ended questions, such as these:
- How can I help our team to achieve greater success?
- In the future, how do you think I could better approach solving ________?
- What do you think is one of my weaker skill areas, and how do you recommend I strengthen it?
“A wise friend once told me, 'Feedback is a gift.' ”
4. Avoid canceling. Always reschedule.
I get it. Managers - and you - tend to be very busy, and sometimes a higher priority pops up. But, it’s important to keep your meetings as consistent as possible and not let too much time pass between them. Otherwise, it’s hard to get into a good flow, and important discussion topics can get backlogged or even dropped - which can lead to all kinds of not-so-ideal consequences.
If you absolutely must reschedule, then be proactive, so that it’s easier to stay on track with your boss. Make sure to find an alternate time and send a calendar invite ASAP. And, definitely avoid letting meetings get canceled regularly - which can reduce motivation on both sides to give proper effort toward your sessions.
If you don’t have a future meeting already set, make sure to schedule it during your current one or right after it, and send a calendar invite.
5. Find a good meeting spot.
As they say in the real estate business - location, location, location. It’s important to chat with your manager someplace where you’ll have enough privacy, comfort, and quiet to speak your mind while not getting distracted by your environment, or the fear of disturbing co-workers. Depending on your company culture, maybe you can book a conference room in advance, or maybe you can go to a nearby cafe.
The walking meeting
Some say that their best 1:1s are walking meetings outside - which can create a more relaxed environment for both of you (and make your FitBit happy).
According to one Harvard Business Review article:
"Recent research finds that the act of walking leads to increases in creative thinking. This certainly supports the usefulness of walking meetings. Plenty of anecdotal evidence also suggests that walking meetings lead to more honest exchanges with employees and are more productive than traditional sit-down meetings."
And, organizational strategy expert Marissa Levin discussed 7 Reasons to Schedule Walking Meetings on Inc.com. Here are the great benefits she highlighted:
- Improved Health - This ultimately leads to a lower number of sick days and reduced health care costs.
- Increased Energy - Walking helps increase circulation, which leads to more energy for you.
- More Inspiration - “Nature and changes of scenery trigger new neuro-pathways in our brains which yield new ideas, and new solutions to problems.”
- A Flatter Structure - By walking side-by-side with your manager, the sense of a power differential seems to almost vanish.
- “Increased Collaboration” - In the case of group meetings, walking allows everyone to be very mobile and easily move between people and conversations.
- “Stronger Personal Connections” - By nixing the corporate vibe, a walking meeting allows you to interact with your colleagues on a more personal level.
- Decreased Bias - By bringing people from all walks of life together (pun intended) in such a personal, informal way, walking meetings help break down barriers and combat conscious and unconscious biases.