It’s on your calendar every week. Just you and your boss in a room together to talk about...what, exactly?

This one-on-one time is precious, especially if you and/or your manager are running in and out of meetings throughout the week. We know that face to face meetings are important for setting the tone of your working relationship with your boss. And with more and more communication happening over email and chat, this face time is more valuable today than ever.

Take control of the meeting. It’s meant to be about you, not your boss. For employees who recently started reporting to their manager, these meetings are crucial. For employees who have been reporting to the same manager for a while, maybe it’s time to rethink how you’re using that time together.

Here are some tips and tricks to get the most out of your one-on-one time with your manager:

1. Go beyond status updates.

One-on-one meetings with your boss are meant to be about you. Going line by line on all your projects is not the best use of this time. Try looking for other formats to share status updates. Does your team keep a project tracking document, like a spreadsheet, Trello or Jira? Maybe there’s something your team updates each week? Work with your boss to find how she wants receive status information in her own time, so you don’t use too many minutes of your weekly check-in going through things that could have been communicated in other ways during the week.

2. Bring an agenda and share it in advance.

Setting a clear agenda is a simple way to make meetings more effective. Your weekly check-in meeting is no different. Throughout the week, questions for your boss in a shared document as they come up. That way, when it’s time for the meeting, you already have an agenda ready to go. Your boss can also go into the document ahead of time and prepare responses to your questions if needed. He or she can also add notes or topics they want to discuss with you. If any action items come up during your check-in, you can note them here as well.

3. Rethink the timing.

My manager and I have gotten really good at keeping each other updated throughout the week. We found that a weekly one-hour check-in was too long, so we cut it to 30 minutes. The 30 minutes we get back in our days to do work or go to other meetings is a better use of the time, so we made the switch. Remember that this one-on-one time is yours, and if you think you need more or less of it, bring that up with your boss. Everyone is different so there’s no need to have the same structure as the rest of your team.

Another option could be to break the meeting in half. If you find that you have a lot to talk about by the time your next weekly check-in comes around, consider breaking it in half and having a 30 minute meeting in the beginning of the week and another 30 minute meeting toward the end of the week. That way, you can get more timely answers to your questions and move on with your projects faster.

4. Discuss your career goals.

Outside of your day-to-day work, use this time to talk about your career. Your manager can be a huge advocate for you if she knows what your career goals are. For example, if you want to practice your influence skills, let your manager know that. She might know of an upcoming project that would be a great opportunity for you to practice those skills. Having your manager on your side is critical to reaching your growth goals. But in order for that to happen, she has to know what your goals are first.

5. Give and receive feedback.

Don’t wait until performance reviews to get feedback from your manager. It’s crucial for feedback to be timely so that you can apply it quickly and effectively. Remember that feedback includes both affirmative (keep doing something that’s working well) and developmental (you could be doing even better if…) comments. Giving the green light that you’re open to receiving more regular feedback can show your manager you’re focused on growth.

Similarly, don’t wait until skip-level reviews to share feedback with your boss. If you’re comfortable with it, try sharing some feedback with your manager during your check-in. Giving and receiving feedback are both major leadership skills, and it doesn’t hurt to practice this as often as possible.

6. Talk about non-work-related topics.

Remember that your boss is a person too, and you both have lives outside of work. Sharing life updates (like moving, travel plans, etc.) can strengthen your relationship and build trust. If you show your authentic and real self to your boss, it can help open communications and develop a stronger bond. This is especially important if you’ve recently started reporting to your manager or you work remotely, in which cases you have less face-time and should take advantage of this one-on-one time together.

Remember that your one-on-one time is your time, not your manager’s. Use it in a way that’s the most productive for you, which can turn it into a meeting you look forward to every week.


Originally published Jul 23, 2018 9:00:00 AM, updated July 23 2018