June 26, 2018

You Need to Be Having Great 1:1s with Your Boss – Here’s How

A little face time goes a long way for your career

The year is almost halfway over. What would your manager say if they gave you a mid-year review today?

At work, your manager is perhaps the biggest influence on your ability to get promoted and do the kinds of things you want to do. But they won’t know how amazing you are if they never see it.

It’s the middle of the year, which means that for many people it’s time for mid-year performance reviews. What do you think your manager will have to say about your performance? Do you want to have more control over how they see you and your work?

Your 1:1 meetings with your manager are one of the best ways to level up your career and be seen as a superstar on your team. But that’s the case only if they’re done in a productive and purposeful way.

If you feel unsatisfied with how your 1:1s are going, are looking for ways to improve this valuable time, or want to start making 1:1s part of your weekly or monthly routine with your manager, this post is for you!

5 reasons why 1:1s are so valuable

1:1s are so great because they have a mission: meet with your boss and talk! It’s fairly simple and informal, but does take preparation in order to make that time valuable.

As an employee, a 1:1 meeting can feel pretty intimidating, especially if you’ve never done them before or when you’re new to a team.

You want to make a good impression and show your value, but you don’t want to brag either. You want to ask questions and learn, but you don’t want to waste your manager’s time. It can be hard to know how to walk that line!

But remember the boss is also in the hot seat. Most truly do want to help their employees to be happy and productive, which can be hard to do without some regularly scheduled moments where it’s just them and an employee. That setting improves the chances of learning this kind of information.

So remember, it’s valuable for you — but it is valuable for them too. The more you build your rapport, the more valuable the time will be for both of you, so even if it feels hard, don’t skip these meetings or try to get them over with as fast as possible. If you go in with a plan for how you’ll make the time meaningful to your productivity or growth in your role, you will both have a lot to gain.

Regularly scheduled 1:1 meetings also offer:

  1. Better communication. We are all busy. And we know that some tasks, unless they’re scheduled and on the calendar,  just won’t get done. A 1:1 meeting creates the space to have uninterrupted conversations with those you work with, on a regular basis, for a set amount of time. Having someone’s undivided attention is valuable and moves the conversation forward far more easily than trying to grab a minute with them here or there.
  2. Stronger connections. 1:1s allow the boss-employee relationship to develop. Even if those meetings just stick to work topics, that working relationship is going places. And if personal conversation gets mixed in too, it doesn’t hurt to know a little about who you work for/who works for you, e.g. likes, dislikes, family, things you have in common… With 1:1s, there’s no way your boss won’t know who you are.
  3. Opportunities to align. Do you know your boss’ biggest goals for your team? Do they know your biggest goals for your career? When you’re in touch about each other’s priorities, you’ll both be more effective at helping the other person get what they want — which makes both of you happier.
  4. A reason to check in. Employee satisfaction can be tied simply to knowing that someone cares about them. Saying “how are you” when you’re passing in the hallway doesn’t allow for much more than a one word response. But when asked in a 1:1, it is an opportunity to share more. A boss and employee don’t have to be best friends, but making a regular personal connection strengthens the relationship.
  5. Staying up to date and engaged. Sharing ideas and concerns, showing interest and having a discussion on topics that don’t involve the team, just the employee, strengthens feelings of engagement. And of course, both boss and employee stay up to date; the boss can delve deeper into that employees workload and understand issues or concerns, while the employee can learn about upcoming assignments or projects.

These are just some of the reasons why 1:1s are so great. What do you love about them?

How to make the most of your 1:1 time

You want to put your best foot forward at each meeting and:

  • Share your successes
  • Address areas where you’re feeling overwhelmed or need help
  • Ask questions and align with big picture goals
  • Share ideas and concerns that are better shared with only the manager first, rather than in a larger group
  • Review a mistake and what you would do differently next time and why
  • Discuss your career trajectory and aspirations

To make the 1:1 productive and worthwhile for you and your boss, you have to set aside some time to prepare, as you would for any meeting.

Pick topics and gather any data you want to reference

Prepare an overview of how you want this meeting to go. You can even send a basic outline to your manager in advance so that they can prepare too.

Things you might want to talk about and/or prepare:

  • your current projects
  • results from projects (maybe in a spreadsheet or downloaded report)
  • questions you have

Your agenda and any reports you want to share should be easy to read and organized; even if you have everything in your head, this gives you something to reference and/or leave with your boss.

Prioritize the most important/urgent items first in case time runs out.

Bring your status into the big picture

Ideally, you’re already giving your manager weekly status updates via email. Your 1:1 is an opportunity to dive deeper on what you’ve been working on, ask questions, and get opinions about what to work on next.

Once you have talked about how things are going on your end, engage your manager for feedback about how this ties into the team’s bigger goals. Are you working on things that matter? Should you refocus your priorities?

Don’t just use this time to talk. Use it to listen. This is your chance to find out what work is most important — what will be of the greatest value to the organization — and make sure you’re visibly doing things that matter. That is how you get promotions and opportunities.

Take notes

As in any meeting, take notes if the 1:1 leads down a path for action on an issue or if you get an answer to a question. Make sure to follow through after the meeting on anything discussed or that needs your attention.

Save a copy of your status report and notes for the future; it will make preparing for your next review that much easier if you have regular summaries of past work.

If you complete something that you talked with your manager in depth about, be sure to send them the results or make a note to talk about it in your next 1:1 to close the loop.

Ask for feedback

Ask your boss for feedback on how you handled a problem or customer, etc; it’s a good habit to get in to and provides valuable information and insight into what your boss expects. Asking now during these meetings can better prepare you for future reviews.

Don’t forget that your manager is in an impactful position; they’ll be your reference as you grow with a company or beyond it, and affect the kinds and types of projects that get sent your way. They give your reviews, but also are an indispensable resource in supporting and guiding you towards achieving your goals.

Your one-on-one time with them shouldn’t be seen as just another thing you have to do. It is an opportunity that is as good as you make it.

What has your 1:1 experience been like?

Whether they’ve been a great or just so-so experience, we want to know! Share your thoughts with us at hello@inkandvolt.com or on Facebook.

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