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Run your 1:1 with your manager the best way
Bonus Notion template
The relationship you have with your manager can make or break your career. Your 1:1 with your manager is likely the most common recurring meeting you have. It is a consistent touchpoint for you to work on your relationship with your manager and build trust.
This template can be used with other 1:1 meetings. The format will need to be adapted based on who you are meeting with and what your goals are for that meeting.
Your 1:1 is not for your manager to simply give you a list of things to work on. If this is how your meetings work right now, it might take a while to turn it into something that is productive for both of you. It indicates there is a need for a system to handle incoming work.
Photo by Nick de Partee on Unsplash
Goals for your 1:1
There are a couple of things to aim for your 1:1 meeting. In a way sometimes this meeting might be to manage your manager, and to help them, help you.
Here are some goals that you might have:
Understand what your manager’s priorities are
Learn business goals especially
Hear feedback from your manager or feedback given to your manager about you
Get organisational context - what your manager is hearing at the leadership level
Get input into your work and priorities - particularly if you have a lot of work to do
Leverage their expertise for help in your area and discuss complex situations
Highlight your achievements and for visibility and credibility
Demonstrate thought leadership and initiative
Check-in on your professional and career development and keep you accountable to your goals
What tools to use and what is best placed elsewhere
Project statuses - your project statuses should be in other tools which are the team agreed upon tools. E.g. Slack, JIRA, Asana, or whatever your team is using.
Team communication - If using a tool like Slack you could preschedule the agenda to be sent to you and your manager ahead of the meeting so it can be reviewed.
Scheduling - Google Calendar or calendar tool of choice - attach your agenda and make sure it is editable.
Incoming projects or things you should be working on next - from your stakeholders directly, Asana, JIRA, a ticketing system, or something else.
Establishing a good working relationship and trust is fundamental. This is especially important if your manager is new to you or the organisation. It can be challenging if they are managing a lot of people, or if they do not have the same expertise as you. Over time what you talk about will evolve as they become more confident about how you work. So the importance of project updates will decline over time.
If your manager is not in the same area as you, your 1:1s are not about educating them about your area. Your 1:1s are for framing your work in the context of their goals. I had many managers who had different specialisations. An early mistake I made was getting too into the details of things like research techniques and research project planning. However, my managers wanted to know how research unlocks certain parts of the business they focused on having an impact.
The structure of your 1:1
Organise your agenda in the order of importance for your work. Make sure you are clear on what you need to include and what you’re OK with dropping content-wise if there is a time limit. It is best to focus on 2-3 items you must cover in your meeting rather than 10+ items that you will just be running through quickly. If you are finding consistently you are running out of time, have a conversation with your manager on the frequency or time allotted for your 1:1s.
Have a few things in mind to get answers on or share. Have an agenda document ready and shared in advance so your manager can take a look and prepare. The more you can prepare for your meeting the more value both of you will get.
Career and professional development goals
Include some points regarding your career and professional development goals into your sessions to ensure that you have a forward motion in this area. It can be lightweight as in what you are up to or circling back to some of your goals and how they are going. It will also help remind your manager to keep an eye out for matching opportunities for growth.
Follow up and closing the loop
It is pretty standard for managers to have multiple people who report to them. So they need to context switch for each team member. It is hard to remember what they are working on, what is important, their goals, and how they like feedback.
If there was something that was discussed that was urgent, do not wait for your next 1:1. Give an update in between so that your manager can see you are being proactive on it.
Capture things that you or your manager need to follow up on in your next 1:1 that requires more discussion. Review that ahead of your meeting so that you can give an update on that.
A note about formats
This is a suggested format as someone who manages team members and needs to report to a manager. The format you use should work for both your manager and you. Some managers like a lot of details in their 1:1 agenda ahead of time, some are not interested. Some want visual communication, others want data, others want it in a very specific format. There is another format which I have used previously Projects/Process, People, Priorities, Performance which is similar to the template but structured in a different manner. Ask your manager what suits them and adjust accordingly. These are never set in stone and can always be adjusted.
🔥 BONUS: Notion template
This template is available for you on Notion, make a copy for your own use.
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