How to have a successful 1-on-1 with your boss

1on1Ah, the dreaded weekly 1-on-1!  Do you get nervous leading up to your 1-on-1 with your boss?  Are you sometimes caught off guard or feel unprepared during the discussion?  Do you ever feel like the time isn’t valuable?

Here are some tips I’ve picked up over the years to ensure a successful 1-on-1 with your boss:

Before the meeting

  • Be prepared.  This meeting is regularly scheduled, and it’s important.  You have it every week so you know what it’s going to be like.  There is no reason to not be prepared for this meeting.
  • Give them a heads up.  If there is a specific topic you want to cover, give your boss a heads up a day or so beforehand.  This will give them time to think about it, rather than catching them off guard in the meeting.
  • Review the past week.  Spend 10 minutes reviewing what happened in your group over the past week.  I typically write down a bulleted list because my memory is bad.  Were there any production issues?  Be prepared to answer questions regarding any event that may have made its way to your boss via other channels.
  • No surprises.  Don’t wait for your 1-on-1 to let your boss know of any big or urgent news.  See this post for tips on managing production issues.

During the meeting

  • Be on time.  Your boss’s time is valuable, don’t disrespect them by being late.
  • Let them lead.  Even though you’ve come prepared with a list of topics and questions, let your boss lead the discussion.  Remember, people have their own agendas and interests.  If your boss doesn’t have any topics to cover then you can move on to your agenda.
  • Raise Issues.  It’s important that your boss hears about issues going on within your team from you first.  It demonstrates that you are the leader of your team and have things under control.  However, as mentioned above, you should be constantly in communication with your boss of any news on your team.  Use the 1-on-1 time to raise up project risks or other concerns, vs. news.
  • Listen.  Pay close attention to the body language and questions that your boss asks.  What is he/she really interested in?  Do they want a status update, or just brainstorm and bounce ideas off of you?  Let them lead and run with it, but find ways to weave in the questions you need answered.  If that doesn’t work, try to move onto your questions/issues after half way through.
  • Take Notes.  I find that I need to take notes in my 1-on-1 to ensure I don’t drop anything.  I usually bring a notebook to take notes vs a computer, as it demonstrates that you are focused on the meeting, and not distracted by email/chat/etc.
  • Learn their style.  You can learn so much from a person by observing their behavior in these 1-on-1 settings.  You should start to see a pattern emerge over a few weeks on what your boss likes to cover in these meetings.  If they are a seasoned manager they will be effective, but that won’t always be the case.  Use the ‘heads up’ before the meeting to ensure the topics you want addressed are covered.  Don’t wait for your boss to discuss your career goals, or potential growth opportunities, bring it up here.

After the meeting

  • Take Notes.  If you didn’t do so in the meeting, immediately afterwards jot down some notes from the meeting.  Pay attention to the topics that they raised.
  • Take Action.  Were there action items?  If so, make sure there is some progress on them by next week’s meeting!

Hopefully you find some of the tips above to be useful.  I’d love to hear other tactics that people employ to ensure they have a successful 1-on-1!

 

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