Three tips for reports to improve one-on-ones: Part 1

Published on: January 18, 2019

Tags: people-manager and one-on-ones

Having better one-on-ones (1:1s) is usually left up to the manager. There are loads of articles and books written with the manager in mind. But focusing exclusively on only one of the attendees drastically reduces how useful the meeting can be. In this post I’ll focus on ways that the team member (report) can improve a 1:1.

Your 1:1s have improved if you get more value out of the meetings. A 1:1 can be “bad” in that you received criticism during the meeting. However it can still be valuable in that the feedback helped you be better at your job. Similarly a 1:1 can be “good” in that you and your manager had a nice chat. However a 1:1 like that might not be valuable in that you and your manager might already have a pretty solid relationship. (Yes, I know having “just a chat” can be valuable from time to time, but if that’s all you’re doing it’s unlikely that the relationship is helping you with your job.)

The tips below set a decent baseline. Many of you are probably already doing all of these things - that’s great! Some of you will find starting with these three tips to be challenging enough for now - that’s great too! I’ll add some more posts with tips later on. These suggestions should continue to increase how much value you get from your 1:1s, and will be a little more difficult than the tips below.


1. Actually have the meeting

Think back over the past six months, have you and your manager met regularly?

If you don’t have a 1:1 calendar slot already then add one in. Pick a regular time to meet with your manager. Make sure that time usually works for them. Add a calendar event and invite them to it. Frequency varies a lot, so I recommend starting with every other week and adjusting from there. If having 1:1s at all is unusual at your company you might want to try for 30 minutes once a month and increase the frequency as you’re able.

Some people have a meeting setup but don't actually have the meeting. Occasional misses are generally ok (people get sick and go on holidays), but if the meeting is skipped more than 25% of the time then it’s a problem.

If you are canceling then evaluate why that is and try to make a change.

If your manager is canceling the 1:1s…

2. Talk

If your manager is asking questions they want the answers! Answer with something more than just yes or no. If you need to, ask for some time to think over what your answer will be and respond at a later date (if this happens a lot ask them to share their questions in advance where possible). Awkward silences signal that you probably don’t want to be there - and it’s just as awkward for your manager as for you. Ideally bring something to contribute to the conversation as well, which brings us to…

3. Prepare for your 1:1

Before your next 1:1 take some time to think about what you want to talk about. This doesn’t need to be a big ordeal, you can start with just 5 minutes. As you get more comfortable with it, you can take notes on what you’d like to discuss any time between meetings. Many people have a 1:1 page to jot down notes about what you’d like to discuss in your next meeting. Bonus points if you share this page with your manager.

Suggested prompts:

If you don’t have regular 1:1s with your manager, start by setting one up. From there you can work on having deeper and more useful conversations during your meetings. Regular time with you manager can be really helpful. These meetings can be even more valuable if you contribute too!

comments powered by Disqus