I hear time and time again from individual contributors and managers alike:
My 1-1 is not a good use of time (if they are happening at all).
You end up only talking about project work, deadlines or chit-chatting about nothing that is actually important.
You have things you actually need to talk about but there doesn’t seem to be time or you don’t know how to bring it up.
Or maybe you want to make sure these meetings are engaging for your team but they always seem to fall flat.
You get frustrated. They get frustrated.
On today’s podcast I am sharing with you my perfect 1-1 framework.
I’m telling you exactly, what the agenda should look like for your 1-1s.
What You’ll Learn
Why 1-1s are so important for you and your team
How to make your 1-1s a productive and effective use of your time
The 3 types of 1-1s you should be having and how to hold them
How to “manage up” to start using this framework with your boss
If you’ve ever had a 1-1 and you walked away thinking “that was a waste of time” or “that didn’t go well” or you want to make sure any 1-1 you hold in the future is effective, you need to listen to this episode.
Featured in This Episode
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Welcome to Navigating Your Career, the only podcast that blends personal development, professional skills and psychology to help you get happy at work and live the life you want. If you want to stop feeling stuck and start feeling better, this is the place for you. I’m your host, Melissa Lawrence.
Let’s get started.
Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of the podcast. Now, I get asked a lot from both managers and individual contributors, what should a good one-on-one look like? How frequently should we be meeting? What should we be talking about? Managers want the time to be useful and beneficial to both parties. But how do you actually do that? Employees want to help their managers make the time beneficial when they don’t have a structure. So how can you manage up to make sure that your time is actually value add?
Today, I’m going to break down my perfect one-on-one framework. Now this framework is tried and true. It is a fusion of a process and system that I saw great success with in my corporate days, where we saw substantial increases in employee engagement and improved relationships between management and the employee. And also some of the best practices that I have seen be used with great success. I am going to break down the agenda for you. I’m going to tell you how to approach this with your boss, too.
So if you’re an individual contributor, listening, or maybe you’re a manager yourself, but you want to use this with your boss, I’m going to tell you how to do that as well. First, I want to celebrate one of my clients, Patty. I have been coaching her for six months and she has had so many wins and shifts. She is happier, excited about life again and excelling in her career. She’s also made some really important decisions in her life. She is in a leadership role for a large pharmaceutical company and here is what she has to say about coaching with me: “I have a clear path to what I want next. I have learned a lot about myself and Melissa helped me make an important decision. I’m looking at challenges, thoughts and feelings differently. The best part was challenging my thoughts and decisions and helping me understand the why. If you haven’t tried coaching with Melissa, try it. Having someone who is objective and doesn’t have any predisposed ideas of who you are is like opening a window and letting in the fresh air along with fresh ideas.”
Thank you so much, Patty. I am so excited for your future. And if you are listening and wondering if coaching with me is right for you, I encourage you to schedule call with me. You can go right to my website. The link is in the show notes and we will discuss your goals, what has been a struggle for you and I will create a custom plan for you to move forward. We can decide if we’re a good fit to work together.
It’s so simple and worth every minute of time. Just imagine what you could create for yourself when you’re not feeling stuck anymore. You can actually see a path forward that you’re excited about. All right. Now let’s get into today’s topic of the perfect one-on-one framework. First, let me just say that you’re one-on-one is for you. Seems obvious, but is often forgotten. Sometimes it seems like it’s for your boss to tell you things or get information from you, and that definitely has its place.
But this meeting is really for you to get what you need. A mistake I see is employees letting their boss dictate the meeting and then stay silent when their needs are not met. I totally get why you would do this. This is your boss, after all. It is their job to structure this meeting for you and you may not want to step on their toes or come off as too assertive, but there is a better way. The framework I like and recommend is really three parts.
There’s your first one-on-one that you ever have together, your regular weekly bi weekly or monthly, one-on-ones, and then your quarterly check ins. And I’m going to start with your regularly occurring one-on-ones, because this is kind of the foundation framework that I suggest for every one-on-one that you have. Number one is to address any outstanding action items from the last meeting. Get those cleared up. First things first. Number two, and this one is the most important, a line on the objectives with you as the employee getting first say and what you need from your boss or from that time you have together. Think about the decisions that you want to be made, what information you need, the things that you want to tell your boss.
You define those objectives in the very beginning because what often happens. As you go in, your boss might start talking about something else or you might start leading into project work, you may go in, have something you want to ask or something you want to say, but then next thing you know, you’re meeting time is up and you never got to say what you needed to. So that’s why right away, after you close out actions, I want you to align on the objectives that you want from that meeting.
Get that buy in from your boss. The third piece is your needs are discussed first. Anything you need is first, not your boss’s opinions or thoughts or their desire to know where you are on a certain project. Your needs are discussed first. Next number four is your boss’s needs are discussed. And then number five is you check in on your development and know you always have the chance to make development as a higher priority by mentioning it in the first item.
So if in that first section where you’re aligning on the objectives, you can use that time to say that you want to check in under development if it’s something that’s really critical or important and you want to make sure it gets discussed in that time that you have together. So I’m going to repeat that again for you. Number one, action items from last meeting. Number two, align on the objectives with you as the employee getting first say in what you need.
Number three, your needs are discussed. Number four, your boss’s needs are discussed. Number five, check in on development. That is simple, right? But without this framework, you end up just talking about project work or your boss shows you YouTube videos of cats and, no joke, that has actually happened. And you leave frustrated and thinking that this time was just a waste. If it is your first one-on-one, then I would suggest adding some additional topics like how frequently you’ll meet, the duration, standing agenda items, preferred ways of communicating between meetings, like does your boss like Skype and instant messenger?
Do they like in-person communication? Do they want to call you? Do you want to call them? Is email a good way to communicate? Establish all of that in that first meeting and any communication styles or preferences that you want to recognize. So if you’ve taken different assessments or tools, if you just know the way that you like to receive information, share that in that initial meeting and it will save so many headaches in the long run. When you end up in the situation where your boss is not recognizing you in a way that is meaningful or you’re getting frustrated because you’re not getting information timely or when you need it, all of that can be prevented by having these conversations early on.
And that way, you stay more engaged, a lot of reasons that people leave their positions is because they’re not getting what they need from their boss and because that relationship is so fractured. And a lot of that can be improved or even prevented by just having these conversations and clearing up any misunderstandings around preferred ways of communication and getting information. It really can happen like that. So talk to your boss about these things early. So if your boss likes to lead with facts and you like to process information before a decision, you know this about each other, it will help you build a stronger foundation from the start.
So first one-on-one is the foundation, it’s the expectations. Getting to know each other and getting those one-on-one scheduled at a regular interval. Then you meet regularly using the framework that I mentioned in the beginning, the five steps. Now quarterly. If you’re a manager, I want you to start doing this. And if you’re not, I want you to bring this to your boss to see if you can start implementing this, Quarterly, I want you to have a check in with your boss where you discuss some topics more in depth and document them quarter to quarter. The topics to discuss are, number one, your career growth and opportunities.
Are you seeing a future with the company? Are you growing and developing at a rate that you like? Number two, your work life balance, do you have the work life balance that you want? Number three, communication. Are you getting what you need? Do you understand the company goals? Does the team communicate well? Does your boss communicate well? Number four, culture. Do you feel like you belong? Do you see the company adhering to the values?
Do you feel valued and respected? Is there micromanaging or toxic behavior going on? Is there bias that you’re seeing? Number five, work quality and quantity. Do you have enough work Do you have too much work? Is what you’re doing using your skills? Are you challenged enough? These topics are proven to increase engagement, decrease turnover and positively impact the employee-manager relationship. Now, these can be measured in a variety of ways. When you’re having this conversation each quarter, you could use a red/amber/green scale to assess each of these areas.
Red is there’s a problem that needs immediate resolution. Amber is things aren’t great and we need some change. And green is everything is all good. You could also use a number scale and you could rate each of those categories on a scale of one to five or one to ten and see how those numbers are changing over time. When you track this information over time with your manager in your one-on-ones, you can see if issues are occurring at certain times of the year, with certain teams or management structures.
It’s also a really objective way to proactively review your engagement, overall employee engagement, and not just rely on that one or two time a year survey that goes out to all employees, which can often be impossible to pinpoint where and what the real problems are. When I created a system for using this process in my corporate days, like I said, we ended up using it across multiple reporting structures and sites because it increased engagement and reduced turnover so much.
This allows you to proactively manage your engagement and your career. You know that I am all about that. OK, so you have my simple framework for one-on-ones. There’s the initial one-on-one where you get to know each other and establish ways of working and expectations. There are the regular one-on-ones where you follow the a simple five step framework, then your quarterly one-on-ones where you use the same five step framework, but you also do an employee engagement review assessing those categories that I mentioned.
So good. Now I have something special for you as my podcast listeners, because this episode was kind of a lot to take in and you might have been thinking, I need to listen to this again when I can take notes or go to my website and get the transcript. So I put together a guide that has the perfect one-on-one framework outlined with the agenda items for your first, regular and quarterly one-on-ones. So it’s all laid out for you.
You can download it directly through the link in the show notes. Now, you may be thinking, OK, so I have this framework now and I can get the guide, so I have the agenda topics. How do I get my boss to use this? This is where I want you to practice managing up a bit, Knowing what you do about your boss, how do you think you could approach this with them? I’m giving you the topics.
Maybe you are just transparent and you say, “hey, I heard of this great one-on-one framework on a podcast, and I’d like to hear your thoughts on it,” then share what parts or all the parts that you want to try and see what they have to say. If your one-on-ones don’t have agendas at all, you could just follow the one-on-one framework without telling them and try to guide the conversation following the steps that I provided to see how that works.
So there’s a lot of different ways that you can approach this. But I really want you to think about… You know, your boss. You know, the framework and the agenda or frequency if you’re even having one-on-one of the one-on-ones that you are having. So I want you to take that information, take the guide that I’m providing you that you can download in the show notes from this episode or just the notes that you’re taking from listening to this.
And think about how you can influence your boss to integrate even just some of these points that I talked about. So maybe you have regular one-on-ones and you think that your agenda is going fine and you’re getting what you need, but you really like this idea of the quarterly check in. So that’s something that you can just bring up with your boss and ask them what they would think about trying it out. Most bosses are going to be OK with at least trying it.
You don’t have to ask for that permanent change. And once they try it and can see for themselves the value that it brings, then that is going to be something that’s just going to become a standard for you. So give it a try and let me know how it goes. You can always tag me on social media or send me a direct message through my email – it’s firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear what you apply from this episode or if you have any questions and need more help, you’re always welcome to ask. All right. That is all for this week’s episode. I hope you have an amazing week. I get asked all of the time, how do I know if I’m in the right career? Now, you can find out. I created a free quiz using my criteria for what makes a great job fit. You can take the quiz at my website www.melissamlawrence.com. And in less than three minutes, you’ll know the answer so you can stop guessing and take some action.
And as a bonus, if your job isn’t a great fit, you’ll get some resources to help you decide what to do about it. Head there now.