1:1 meetings (aka one-on-one or 1-1) are dedicated recurring time blocks on yours and your manager’s calendar for private, open-ended conversations. These meetings are a great a mechanism to accelerate your professional development and stay aligned with your manager. Our guide gives a detailed overview of the importance of these meetings and provides eight quick tips to make the most out of them.

In this post, we share themes that you can use to structure your 1:1 meetings and have curated a repository of questions to help you get started.  

So, let’s jump right to it!

Working backwards from the value that is derived out of these one-on-one meetings, the various topics of discussion can be grouped into four themes –

1. Interpersonal relationship

2. Informal feedback

3. Guidance on day-to-day tasks

4. Professional development

Let’s go over each of these themes in more detail.

1. Interpersonal relationship

Most of us spend a good chunk of our day at work interacting with our colleagues, peers, and manager. Hence, having a good rapport with the people we work impacts our happiness, job satisfaction and our overall well-being. One-on-ones with your manager are a good forum to build a trusting relationship and genuine, human connection with them. This reduces the scope of miscommunication and ambiguity since both you and your manager better understand each other’s thought process. Goes without saying, talking about things other than work reduces work-related stress and makes you seem more approachable.

Below are some questions that you can leverage to kick-start the conversation:

  • Anything fun or any upcoming vacation that you are looking forward to?
  • What do you like to decompress?
  • (If they have talked about their family or have kids) How is your kid doing? What do you guys like to do for fun?
  • (Remote work special – If they have an interesting/personalized background in video call at home) That’s a nice photo, is this from your vacation? Or That’s a great painting, who did that? Or that’s a beautiful plant, do you like keeping plants?
  • How is your week coming along?
  • Do you need any help or input for your upcoming review?
  • How do you juggle between multiple tasks? Would love to get some tips that I can implement.
  • What is your biggest concern at work that worries you?
  • What do you value most in your work?
  • What do you value most when hiring someone? (Very helpful if you are looking to build your own team)

2. Informal feedback

Every organization has an official periodic feedback cycle that is used to determine promotions, increments, bonus etc. At times, these feedback meetings can be stressful specially when there is misalignment between the manager and the employee. Hence, it is a good idea to collect informal feedback from your manager throughout the year. This ensures that you catch the issue early on and engage in a constructive discussion with your manager before it comes up in the year-end review. Through this, you build yourself a continuous cycle of improvement and ensure that you are learning throughout the year. This will also minimize any surprises during your formal reviews.

Bonus:  Asking for feedback highlights your ownership skills and growth mindset which are always a plus.

A few prompts to help you gather feedback effectively:

  • I have been on the team for X months now, anything that I can do better? (If you are relatively new to the team)
  • I missed this milestone on the project, any suggestions on what could I have done to avoid it?
  • Any area/skill that you think I can improve?
  • From your perspective, what am I doing good and what can I improve?
  • How could I have handled that situation better?
  • How do you see me making an impact in the next 6 months?

3. Gaining alignment on day-to-day tasks

Use the time during one-on-ones to give your manager an overview of your top priorities for the week and or until your next 1:1 and highlight any areas of help needed. While you and your manager might be aligned on long-term goals, giving them a sneak peek in your schedule will help them and you in many ways –

  • They can point out any suggestions, updates or new developments related to your projects that you might not be aware of
  • They can suggest modifications in your priorities if needed
  • It gives them context in case you are looking for help on any task or project

You can start this discussion through the following questions:

  • This week (in the coming week) I plan to focus on <task 1> and <task 2>. Is there anything that I am missing?
  • I am planning to complete this project using XYZ process. Anything else that I can do, or I might be missing from my analysis?
  • Do you mind going over my work in progress presentation/document to share early thoughts?
  • I am blocked on task 1 which will delay this project, any thoughts on how I can unblock myself?
  • These is my point of view on the task, any feedback, or comments?
  • Is there anything that I should be focusing on more?
  • I need additional resource to deliver this project. How can I achieve that?

4. Professional development

Your career development should be combined effort of you and your manager. Your manager should be your ally and should present you with opportunities to help you advance your career. However, that can only be achieved through an open discussion about your career goals and them knowing your interests and ambitions. Although it might be an uncomfortable conversation at first, over a period it becomes more natural and an ongoing meeting agenda topic.  

Claire Lew, in her post talks about preparing for 1:1 meeting with manager and highlights the importance of talking to them about your career goals. She says:

“Your one-on-one with your manager is your chance to let her know how you’d like to be further pushed and challenged in your role (or outside your role). Take time to reflect on what you’d like to improve or work on professionally.”

Below are some questions that you can leverage to start the conversation about your career development:  

  • I am looking to build <XYZ> skillset. Are there any recommended courses/online classes, or books that I can read to learn more?
  • I want to flex my <XYZ> skill, any project that I can drive to achieve that?
  • I would like to move to the next level (get promoted or switch roles), what are the things that I need to work on to get there?
  • I am looking for a mentor to build <XYZ> skill, anyone you know who might be interested to mentor me?
  • What are skills that I can build to help me grow in the team?
  • I liked working on this project because <explain why did you like the project>, are there other projects that I can pick up?
  • I get motivated by this and would love to get more of such opportunities

 

Julia Evans has summarized the discussion for 1:1 meetings in a simple but powerful graphic view.