The single biggest mistake you can make in a check-in meeting with your manager is expecting them to take the lead. If you arrive to the meeting with just a blank stare, you risk suffering through 30 minutes of status reports. The goal of a good 1:1 agenda isn’t to leave carrying a heavier workload, but to strut out of your manager’s office with improved rapport, renewed purpose, and clearly defined goals. To do that, you need to take control of the meeting.
Be the keeper of the 1:1 agenda
Remember, you have one check-in per week (or month) with your manager, but your manager has many such meetings with you and your colleagues. It’s unlikely your manager will take the time to prepare comments, feedback, and growth exercises personalized to each of their direct reports; more likely they will follow a scripted routine provided by HR or, most likely, wing it. To reap the benefits of a 1:1 meeting, you must be prepared to direct the conversation, and the best way to do that is to prepare an agenda.
Things you shouldn’t say to your manager
Let’s start with what shouldn’t be on the 1:1 agenda. Your weekly check-in is not the time for a lengthy status report or a monotonous reading of your to-do list. It’s not a time for criticism of your co-workers or complaints about the lousy coffee in the break room. And you definitely shouldn’t launch into tales of personal heartbreak.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t discuss concerns about workflow and your team’s engagement or that you can’t share information about stressful personal situations. But rather than laying all your troubles at the feet of your manager, look to provide constructive feedback and proactive solutions that demonstrate your value to your team and organization.
The only 1:1 agenda you’ll ever need
To energize your discussion and jump start your career, you might want to structure your agenda like this:
Start with positive feedback about a recent success:
Set the stage for a positive meeting by telling your manager about a recent win. Maybe the new approval system has made a process faster and smoother, or maybe you had a satisfying and productive experience working with a new co-worker. This demonstrates that you are engaged and have a stake in the team’s success.
Discuss new work tasks you’ve undertaken, enjoyed, and would like to do more of:
This demonstrates to your manager that you are willing to learn new skills and boost your expertise in certain areas that could position you for an expanded role. If you lent a hand to a co-worker on a project outside of your wheelhouse, or if you’re interested in working on a project that is beyond your usual scope, don’t assume your boss is aware of your team spirit. 1:1 meetings are a great time to share personal successes and areas of interest that could move you further down your career path.
Lay out your career goals:
Often, workers tend to keep their heads down and focused on the job at hand, only speaking of the role they aspire to during their yearly review. If you discuss your career path with your manager just once a year, don’t expect to make much headway. It is much easier to make progress toward your long-term goals by taking small weekly steps and leaps than to create a comprehensive, surefire plan during a 20-minute conversation once a year.
Share your insights and ideas for current projects:
Most employees have lots of ideas about things that could be better or different at their companies. Unfortunately, these are most often shared with their co-workers rather than with leaders who can orchestrate change. Why not leverage your in-the-trenches experience and let your manager know when you’ve spotted an inefficiency that easily could be tweaked? You’ll impress your manager by offering a creative solution rather than unloading about a problem, you’ll improve a cumbersome process for yourself and your co-workers, and you may even impact your organization’s bottom line.
Ask for their help:
Your manager is your manager because they have background and experience that you haven’t earned yet. Tap into that resource by asking them to help you learn something new. You’ll flatter them, demonstrate your earnestness, and increase your value to the company by upskilling.
Of course, you may be wondering how to work these topics into a conversation without sounding boastful, aggressive, or whiny. There are strategies and technology tools that will allow you to introduce these topics as a matter of course. Check in with us next week and we’ll talk about specific questions you can ask your manager to introduce these topics so that your next 1:1 meeting is a winner.