upstart thoughts on talent and leadership

16 Things to Prepare for, Do, or Cover in Your 1:1’s (Employee Perspective)

In ! Jen, Employee Tips, General Work on Thursday, October 8, 2009 at 3:33 am

Obviously, you won’t do all of these in one sit-down discussion. But don’t go in to 1:1 meetings with your boss unprepared. You lead the discussion.

16. Prepare an agenda. Share it with your boss prior to your meeting if you wish, but what’s most important is that you have a shortlist of what you’re preparing to discuss, even if it’s just a bulleted list of topics. This has several advantages including: a) it forces you to think about what you’ll need to cover, so you can budget time appropriately, b) your preparation shows your manager that you care enough to be respectful of her time, c) you’ll have a written record of items discussed, and on which to take notes, and which to keep for future reference.

15. Decide if you even need to meet. If you have nothing substantial on your agenda, perhaps you catch your boss the day before to see if he’s got a lot to cover. Otherwise cancel, or abbreviate your meeting. Don’t feel compelled to take the whole hour if you don’t need it. On the flip side, don’t do this two meetings a row. If there’s not a lot to cover for two meetings in a row, you’ve got other issues going on.

14. Call attention to recent wins since your last meeting. Your boss is busy. She’s not omniscient, so be sure you share successes. But be realistic.

13. Call attention to people who helped you. Shine the spotlight on others who really deserve it. This not only is good karma, but shows that you are a team player, can recognize others’ contributions, and are confident in your own abilities.

12. Be clear with requests. If you are stuck and need help, articulate how you need your boss to help. This means going beyond stating: “I’m having a lot of trouble with getting Marketing to meet our shared deadlines.” Instead, be specific: “Can the X deadline be moved by two weeks? / Can you share with me how you are able to get Marcy and her team in Marketing to better gate deliverables? / From your perspective, what should I be doing differently to ensure this deadline is met? / Can you come with me to talk with Marcy’s team about the X project deadline?” You are more likely to get help from your manager if you know what you’re asking for and ask for it clearly.

11. Ask for feedback–in specific, and in general. Specifically, upon completion of projects or presentations and the like. About your performance in general on a regularly basis, at least once a quarter. What should you be doing differently? What are you doing well? What area(s) does your manager see as needing more development? If he were to assess you today based on your company’s performance appraisal ratings, how would you rate?

10. Be open to feedback. Don’t get defensive, unless something is patently false or based on incorrect information that you must set straight. Don’t get upset, and don’t deny. Take what your manager has to say and mull it over some. Clarify and discuss further at next week’s meeting.

9. Share intel. If you’ve learned something at a recent training session, or a podcast, or read an interesting article, share top three takeaways. Not only are you sharing information that could be useful for current or future needs, you’re also showing that you are continuing your development, staying fresh on business or industry-relevant topics. Additionally, your boss will likely share intel with you, and share your info with others. This is one path companies take to cultivating learning cultures, and this is a very good and desirable thing.

8. Start and stop on time. A basic, for sure, but definitely worth a mention.

7. Revisit annual goals. Pull these out for discussion on a quarterly basis, at least. If they need an alteration, discuss it now, versus a month prior to getting your performance appraisal.

6.  Offer feedback. On your boss? Yes. Your boss is human, too. If there are things that you would like for him to not do, or to continue doing, you should share these with him. Obviously, you’ll choose your timing wisely, but we all benefit from truthful feedback given in good faith. If your boss doesn’t take to this well, counter with: “In the future, how should I share such feedback with you, as I want to ensure we can communicate openly.” If he still doesn’t take to this, your boss doesn’t care, and you either need to come to terms with that, or find another job.

5. Give updates on work-in-progress. Here’s your chance to better understand how your work fits into the bigger picture, to discuss if goals need to be recalibrated, and to ask for help.

4. Discuss your development plan. 1:1’s are a time to discuss what’s urgent and timely, but don’t lose sight of what’s equally important: your ongoing development. If there are things that you should be doing to develop your career–both within your current role and to prepare for future roles, now is the time to discuss it. If your manager is not bringing this topic up herself, take it upon yourself to discuss this on a quarterly basis. Be clear about what you want: “I would love to learn more about Promotions. I know you’ve worked with Catherine in the past–could you help with an intro?

3. Stay on track. Stick to your agenda. “Parking lot” those items that need more attention and time. At the end of the meeting ask if these items should wait until your next 1:1, or if you need to set up time prior to then to discuss further.

2. Remain respectful and professional. Just because this is your time does not give you carte blanche, or even “what gets said in this room stays in this room.” Your manager is still the one who will be assessing your performance. So even though this is a time to share roadblocks and frustrations, do not turn it into a bitch session or get exasperated.

1. Take notes. Follow-up on open items. And keep notes from your 1:1 so that you can refer to them for the next 1:1. At the end of the year, you’ll be surprised how much you’ve accomplished.

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