The topics you should discuss with your manager at your next 1:1
Regularly recurring 1:1s are highly effective workplace tools -- especially when handled confidently. And mastering this tool starts with a shift in perspective: rather than simply a time for your manager to pass down tasks, 1:1s are your opportunity to steer your career. Strip away titles, and at the core are two adults having a conversation. After all, it’s right there in the name. Approach your next sitdown with the boss armed with these topics and discover more clarity to your role, while gaining a realistic understanding of what’s critical, and reinforcing your team’s mission:
“I need help with…” Let’s start off with a true fact: your manager is not a mind-reader. Keep in mind their job is to set the conditions for you to be successful, as that reflects back on their own abilities. Sitting down 1:1 is the perfect time to raise the white flag on anything keeping you from this success. Help your manager by allowing them to help you.
“Some of my recent accomplishments are…” Conversely, your face to face is also the perfect time for tooting your own horn. While a good manager is keeping tabs on their team’s general successes, don’t forget to bring up your smaller, autonomous accomplishments that may have missed their radar. Not only does this keep your worth as a team player in mind and position you for raises and promotions, but it’s also ace for confirming that your output is aligning with the overall team mission.
“Let’s make sure we’re both saying the same thing…” Speaking about the team mission: communicate, communicate, communicate. This is your 1:1 time with your manager, so there’s no fear of bogarting teammates’ time as in a group setting. Keep a list between sit-downs of items to address that have been ambiguous or stumped you. Make sure you're both speaking the same language in this company story you’re weaving together.
“Let’s take a look…” Even better than verbally discussing your accomplishments is showing receipts. Start a file to capture finished projects, positive feedback from colleagues or clients, and the like -- think about elementary school, show and tell. Give a practice run of your current project or presentation so your manager has the opportunity to provide guidance on polishing it up. Displaying your actual output is a great way to confirm understanding of their directives.
“I’m excited about…” One of the surest ways work gets you out of bed in the morning is if it keeps you engaged. Be sure in discussing your progress and accomplishments to highlight what aspects got you passionate about the tasks, especially if this is a newer manager relationship. They have your hard skills on a resume, but what creatively or intellectually makes you tick? This is what positions you for future interesting projects and assignments.
“I don’t love…” Reminder: your manager very likely lacks clairvoyance. Just as important to share are the areas that make you go hohum. This isn’t necessarily the time to say, “I don’t want to do this,” but rather simply, “I don’t love this task, and also I’m going to knock it out of the park.” Communicating your strong and weak points helps your manager tailor their needs to their team’s abilities, aligning your interests with theirs.
“No” Respectfully, no; sometimes simply sharing what you don’t love isn’t enough and this unfortunately oft-maligned two-letter word needs to be used. Managing your manager can be necessary, and coming with a mindset of helping each other succeed while having the right expectations is key when “N-o” has its place. Finding the edges makes what is acceptable all that much stronger.
“Here’s what’s working” Of course, we’re not in our 1:1s to only bring up things that are problems. As with sharing your personal accomplishments, now’s the time to identify what’s working with the team too. Discuss solutions you’ve been penciling out. Then, as you’re drafting your own success, you’re joining your manager in building a great environment conducive for getting things done.
Making your manager’s job easier in turn makes your job easier. Coming to your 1:1s with both problems and solutions gets you on the path to success. Have the intention of gaining clarity on your role, an understanding of what’s critical and what can be backburnered, and reviewing how your team is functioning. By preparing for your 1:1, you keep your engagement up and come away with more confidence.