If you’ve ever held a job in any work setting, chances are you’ve had one-on-one conversations with your manager.
While it may seem that these meetings mostly assist the manager in their job, they’re just as valuable for the employee, if not more so.
One-on-one meetings are dedicated times for employees to have open-ended conversations with their manager to discuss work-related issues and help them grow in their careers. In fact, according to Gallup, employees who have regular one-on-ones with their manager are three times more engaged at work.
So don’t fret the next time you receive an invitation to meet with your manager; instead, learn how to prepare for one-on-ones and make the most of them.
While some companies require their managers to set regular one-on-ones with employees, this is not the case everywhere. However, it's essential to know one-on-one meetings are integral to your professional development.
If your boss doesn’t set up this meeting with you, don’t be afraid to ask for one yourself when the necessity arises.
In some situations, it’s perfectly fine to reach out to your manager in an informal way to see if they’re available for a one-on-one. Of course, your relationship with your manager determines this: are you close and feel comfortable asking them? For example, you might feel comfortable sending them a quick DM, text, or even asking in person.
Regardless of how friendly you are with your manager, if there are specific or serious topics you would like to discuss in your one-on-one, or if you’ve never had a one-on-one before, it’s best to send a formal request.
The recommended way to request a one-on-one is by email, which is more formal and professional.
As managers are busy and their time is valuable, if you request a meeting, ensure you have a reason and talking points. Then, you can craft your email with the following tips:
1. Check their availability: To help save time, check your manager’s calendar if it’s shared with you to see when they are available, then you can propose a date and time. Alternatively, you can list several dates and times that you’re available in the email and allow them to choose what fits their schedule.
2. Consider the location: If you work from home, one-on-ones can be completed through video chat using Zoom or Teams. However, if you can meet in person, try to choose a location that offers some privacy. If the topics you would like to discuss are not too sensitive, meeting in a coffee shop is a great neutral and relaxed meeting space.
3. Write a subject line: Your subject line should clearly state what the email is about. For example, “Request for one-on-one” is sufficient.
4. Include why you want to meet: As mentioned above, you should have a reason for wanting to book a one-on-one. This might be to talk about career goals, to receive guidance on a specific project, or even to connect with your manager. We’ll get into more of the reasons below.
5. Don’t forget to check for spelling and grammar. As always, it’s important to check your email for proper spelling and grammar before hitting send.
Subject line: Request for one-on-one from xx
Dear Ms. Manager,
I would like to schedule a one-on-one to connect with you on [the topics]. I feel this would be a great way to connect, ensure we’re on the same page, and discuss my performance and continuous development with the company.
I have proposed a time in the meeting invitation. However, please feel free to suggest another time that fits your schedule within the next couple of weeks.
One-on-one meetings are incredibly valuable for both the manager and the employee, but only if the time is spent wisely. When you go into your one-on-one prepared, you can effectively use this session as an employee to receive feedback and mentorship to advance your career.
Consider the following tips to get the most out of your next one-on-one with manager.
Setting a meeting intention ahead of time is a good idea; it helps define what the meeting is about and what you’re hoping to achieve. To help you set your meeting intentions, ask yourself a few questions such as:
What is it I want or need to share with my manager at this time?
What do I hope to gain from this meeting?
What is the overall purpose of this meeting?
Going into your one-on-one with set intentions will help you stay on track and drive as much benefit as possible.
Before your scheduled meeting, think about what you would like to discuss with your manager. This could include asking questions, sharing suggestions, and discussing your career goals.
It’s a good idea to write these down ahead of time to bring into your meeting, so you don’t forget anything important you want to talk about.
Preparing ahead of time is the best way to ensure your one-on-one is productive, including putting together a meeting agenda.
If your manager doesn’t present one to you ahead of time, don’t be afraid to ask about it. Or you could suggest creating an agenda collaboratively using Airgram where both of you can write down the talking points and distribute the estimated time.
The only way you’ll get the most out of this time is to be completely honest with your manager and vice versa. If you have any concerns or something is unclear, it’s up to you to speak up and get clarification. Remember, your manager is not a mind reader.
Always bring something into the meeting to take notes on, whether it’s your laptop or a notebook and pen.
By keeping detailed notes, you’ll have something to refer back to and help keep you on track going forward. You can also bring your notes into your next one-on-one as a starting-off point by going over what was accomplished.
Pro Tip: You can use Airgram to record the meeting and organize all meeting notes in one place, so you don’t have to struggle to find previous notes.
Throughout the conversation, you and your manager might come up with some great ideas for you to follow through on. Make sure to write out a list of any action items discussed and create realistic deadlines to make sure they get accomplished.
Ideally, you should have recurring one-on-ones set up in your calendar, and depending on your manager’s schedule, this could be weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. The only way to truly benefit from having a one-on-one is to have more of them on a regular basis
One-on-one meetings with your manager are a great time to discuss your career and professional growth and get feedback or suggestions to improve your work performance.
If you’re unsure of what to talk about in your next one-on-one, here are some discussion topics to consider.
Ideally, you and your manager should set goals for yourself within the company and your career at least once a year. However, waiting long stretches between goal reviews can be counterproductive; you’ll want to know you’re on the right track as you progress. That’s why it’s a good idea to review your annual goals and the progress you’re making on them during your one-on-ones.
Although it’s natural to want to impress your manager, do not exaggerate your progress. You must be honest about where you are with your goals and be able to explain why.
Remember, your manager is there to help you, not hinder you. Through their experience, knowledge, and power within their role, they should be able to help you identify any roadblocks and assist you in overcoming them.
Although one-on-ones should not be spent doing meticulous status updates on all your projects, it is an excellent time to connect on anything that’s impertinent or if you’re struggling with a particular task. If there’s not enough time to go into details, your manager will at least be aware, and you can agree to book a time to discuss it further in another meeting.
Of course, there are a few things you shouldn’t spend your time on during your one-on-ones, including:
Using this time as a regular “check-in.” While it’s good to connect on a few things, you want these meetings to focus on you and your career, not your daily to-do lists.
Tediously go over project updates; this should be reserved for meetings specific to those projects.
Complain about the company or your team members; it leaves a wrong impression.
This is a great time to ask questions and gain feedback on anything you’re stuck on.
Keep in mind you want any feedback you receive to include clear direction on how to move forward. That way, when you leave the meeting, you know exactly what you need to do next.
What do you think of the recent project I’ve finished?
How can I contribute more to the team/ on a specific project?
Is there anything I should complete or have ready for our next one-on-one?
If you have any concerns regarding your job, the company, or your career, it’s important to share them with your manager, and this is the perfect time to do so.
But don’t use this time to complain about every little thing; instead, try to be a proactive problem solver and present potential solutions to your problems. For instance, you could ask your manager how they might tackle a specific problem you’re facing, but be sure to also share with them any solutions you have considered.
Part of your manager’s job is to ensure you can do your job to the best of your ability, so if there’s something that’s getting in the way of that, they’ll want to help.
Even if you love your job, there might be more you want to accomplish in your career. Perhaps there’s a course you’ve been interested in taking or a position in your department that you have your eye on.
Never be afraid to express your desire to move up in your career. A good manager will want to see you succeed, even if that means moving to a higher position.
If you’re hoping to advance in your career, a few questions you might consider asking include:
What skills do you feel are important for me to work on in order to improve in my role?
What learning opportunities are available within or outside the company?
Do you have any recommendations, such as books, courses, or conferences, to help me continue to develop [job-related skills]?
If this is not your first one-on-one with the manager, you should have a list of actions from the previous meeting. Go through the actions with your manager to let them know which ones you’ve accomplished. If there are items that haven't been completed yet, explain why. If part of the reason is you need more support or clarification, this is the time to ask for it.
One-on-one meetings provide incredible opportunities to get to know your manager better and gain invaluable guidance and advice from them. Remember, the best way to benefit from meeting with your boss is by preparing ahead of time. Use the above tips and questions and make the most out of your one-on-ones.
Cole is a freelance writer with over a decade of experience. With an educational background in journalism, public relations, and social media, she has a passion for storytelling and providing useful and engaging content.