Managing your One-on-One Meetings Effectively with your Manager

Your manager is the one stakeholder that will nearly always be crucial to your professional development.

This basically means that you should always communicate your aims and aspirations to your manager.

You should openly debate and decide on your respective short- and long-term objectives. These plans should be periodically reviewed by the two of you to make sure you are taking any changes into account.

Meetings with an individual are the only medium I’ve discovered to be helpful for these discussions (aka 1:1 meetings).

Every week, I have at least a 50-minute meeting with my manager. I discuss anything that either directly or indirectly contributes to my growth and progress during these discussions.

Summary

  1. Always have a clear goal for your 1:1s.
  2. You should own the structure of the meeting.
  3. Never miss or cancel the 1:1s.
  4. Explicitly ask for feedback, but also give feedback.
  5. Set the frequency that works for you.

I share the simple template that I use for 1:1 meetings with my manager.

Always have a defined objective for your 1:1s. I strongly advise that you make the 1:1 encounters extremely focused. You should achieve it by giving your meetings definite goals.

My list of objectives is as follows:

  1. Set your priorities for the upcoming week or month once more.
  2. Report on the status of the ongoing and finished jobs. Highlight achievements and obstacles.
  3. Point out obstacles that are getting in the way. enlist assistance in unblocking.
  4. Ask for advice when appropriate.
  5. Every quarter, talk about your job goals and personal development.

It will be much easier for you to create the format that works for you once you have your own list.

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Thank you for sharing. One change I would suggest is that you should talk about professional development far more frequently than once every three months. You should have a growth plan in place and review it once every week. If necessary, push your manager to work with you on one.

Employees who wish to become better leaders up would benefit from using Empowered by Marty Cagan’s chapter on one-on-ones from the manager’s perspective, especially for those without strong managers.

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@VladPodpoly, I appreciate you sharing your thought. Your suggestion seems reasonable to me. To qualify it, I’d say that it genuinely relies on the person, team, and organization.

The majority, if not all, of the comments I receive that will help me better over time is something that will take time to develop. So, if we had a chat about my profession every month, I might not have anything to present or ask for input on.

I believe a big part of it is that I work with businesses. It takes longer for us to deliver new features and make other modifications.

Because of this, I believe that your role truly does matter.

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@KaranTrivedi, these things are definitely context specific, no doubt. I can’t comment to the B2C experience because I’ve only ever worked in the B2B industry for ten years and haven’t done any B2C work, but I would agree that professional development and the work you do on a daily basis are quite separate things.

Feedback on specific tasks, features, or whatever is discussed with my direct reports when we work together, but much more frequently we discuss a professional skill they’re developing, a habit they’re forming, or some other aspect of their skill set that isn’t directly related to their current output. These are weekly chats, not monthly or quarterly. Most of the time, it is up to the manager to steer those conversations, make them helpful and meaningful for the employee, and make sure they don’t feel like a waste of time or a distraction.

If your management simply views your professional growth or feedback as “what features did you release” or something similar, I would urge your manager for more comprehensive feedback and strive to establish a clear plan of action week by week on a skill or habit you should be focusing on. Here, examples can include statements like “I need to improve at leading stakeholder meetings” or “I’m finding it difficult to time block properly.” Working on minor details like that once a week has shown to be quite successful, at least for my team!

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For genuine progress updates, my manager and I meet separately. Our 1:1s emphasize a vintage format:

  • What was successful during the past week?
  • How could it have been improved
  • Thoughts or queries
  • Action points

These heavily revolve around development and goals.

Then, in a separate meeting, the entire product team gathers to discuss the status of ongoing tasks in a manner similar to your agenda.

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I’m not a product manager (product designer), but this is fantastic. I’ve also been taking the 1:1s with my boss as an informal session, so this is a great reminder for me to take actions in my own hands.

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@JoelSchulman, I am glad you found it useful.

I think this guide applies to a lot of job functions (other than PM).

I posted it here since I am the most familiar with the users on this subject, and thought that this group might find it useful too.

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With my repartee, I normally divide conversation into business and employee-related matters. Weekly segments of 30 to 40 minutes on business issues. Personal is all about him, his coaching, growth, and development. It occurs twice per week. It functions fairly well so far.

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@NathanEndicott, that’s an interesting setup.

Would you mind sharing a little more about what specifically you discuss in the development meeting?

Is this feedback based on the “business” topics or specific guidance on long term growth? And if it’s the latter, who sets the agenda, and what is usually included in the agenda?

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@KaranTrivedi, Sure. Basically the setup is a 2 way street where we both bring constructive feedback. I try to do my best to create a safe environment, so my employee constructively “criticise” me as it helps me to cover my blind spots and thus make me better.

We’ve a 1:1 document with a very lightweight structure. Purpose of the document is to capture:

Results:

  • Career development
  • Feedback
  • Bring your own topic

Principles:

  • Transparency, honesty, and feedback go both ways
  • Fast feedback cycles

I want him to feel safe, encouraged and motivated. Because this setup will make clients, company, him and me better.

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Love this. Thanks for sharing.

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How can I keep conversations with my manager from getting too personal?

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@ShiyaoLiu, What do you mean by “too personal”? Are they unrelated to your job?

I’d agree that following a predetermined meeting agenda (like the one mentioned above) creates a more formal atmosphere.

Additionally, giving the manager advance notice of the agenda helps him or her be prepared for what you plan to discuss.

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@KaranTrivedi, I should have been more specific. Yes, they are non-work related.

My manager recently called to discuss development and inquired about my relationship, plans for the future, etc. It entered a realm I wasn’t comfortable discussing, yet I continued to do so in order to keep a positive working relationship with my manager.

Any tips on how to politely request that a chat “keep things work-related” when it veers off topic?

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Yes, that is a not at all pleasant place to be.

Do you know why they do that, or can you make a guess? And do you know if they do the same thing to other people?

It is definitely not OK if you feel uneasy.

Of course, the first recommendation is to let them know that you’re uncomfortable.

The alternative is to have so many stuff on your agenda that you run out of time to talk about anything else?

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Any advice for a new PM who can’t schedule a meeting with their manager? They meet one-on-one with their other direct reports every two weeks, but I’ve had trouble scheduling time with them because I’m usually the one who makes the schedule, not them.

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I can assure you of one thing: you are not the only person experiencing this situation.

Here are a few things I’d try:

  1. Try to discuss it with them. Formally. Not required to be a meeting. It may be a message, an email, or a quick chat. But let them know that you’d like to chat and that you’d like to talk about A, B, C, etc. in a matter-of-fact way.

  2. Send them an invitation two to three weeks in advance if you can’t speak with them without a meeting. They will have more time to prepare and, ideally, have fewer excuses to say no. When you do send the invitation, be sure to make your agenda and meeting objectives clear.

Find the most effective manner to deliver your message to them at the conclusion. After that, be very direct and clear with your point. After your initial conversation, make an effort to persuade them to agree to a regular frequency. If it doesn’t, keep saying the same thing again and over.

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My manager has blown me off twice now. We have a weekly 1:1 meeting, and I’ve been reporting to him since mid-May. On both occasions, he hasn’t shown up, not even in response to my request that he attend. What’s the best method to bring up that I feel unimportant for what I do?

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Hello @JesusRojas,

I’ll do my best to respond to this in a way that is both somewhat general and relevant to your circumstance (only because I do not know all the details of your situation). Even though some of this may be repeated from the original thread, I’ll say it anyway.

  1. “I was waiting for you last week and wasn’t sure if you’d like to reschedule or just wait for this meeting,” you can say to your manager when you see him shortly after the meeting he missed. Share the items on the agenda that you planned to share “last week” after that. The idea is to sort of call him out while also letting him know that you had a significant conversation last week.

  2. You are free to reschedule for the same week if he cancels or doesn’t show. Maybe he shows up to the new meeting?

  3. When he next cancels, add 30 minutes to your scheduled meeting for the following week. Mention something like “Extending the invite to have adequate time to address issues from last week” when you send the amended invitation.

I don’t think cancelling /not showing for a couple 1:1s isn’t bad, provided it’s for a genuine reason.

At the same time, not communicating or responding to messages is not acceptable. And that is a tough problem to solve.