how to make 1-on-1 check-in meetings more useful

Too often, when I ask managers whether they have regular weekly one-on-one meetings with each staff member on their team, the answer is that they don’t, or they do but don’t feel like the meetings are a great use of time.

When someone feels like one-on-ones aren’t especially useful, it’s usually because they’re not using the time correctly. Generally it means that staff members are just running down a list of project updates – which is the type of information that could easily be emailed — and that when managers ask “how’s X going?” they often just hear “it’s going well” – which isn’t particularly useful information, and tends to leave both people wondering why they’re staring across a desk at each other.

But when you do check-ins the right way, it can be revolutionary. Here’s how.

1. Managers should look at check-ins as their primary forum for management. This is the time to  touch base about projects, get aligned on priorities and how to approach key issues, give feedback, and serve as a resource – so that you’re not popping in to do all this randomly throughout the week … or worse, not doing it at all.

2. Managers should ask their staff members to create an agenda each week. Generally agendas should cover the week’s main goals, debriefing recent projects, and anything the employee wants input on. Having your employee email an agenda beforehand ensures that neither of you are walking into the meeting cold and helps nudge people to think through what will be most useful to talk about. However…

3. The manager shouldn’t rely solely on that agenda. Instead, managers should take a couple of minutes before the meeting to think through what you think is most important to talk about. Ask yourself: “What am I most worried about? What do I want to make sure we focus on?” For instance, you might realize “the thing I’m most worried about in Jane’s realm is the progress of our work on the website, so I’m going to really focus on that.”

4. Don’t spend much time on general project updates. Instead, ask staff members to include short bulleted updates in the agenda they email ahead of time, so that you can read the updates before the meeting. That way, you can spend your face-to-face time on the items that truly require conversation.

5. Ask questions that help you understand how work is really going. Sure, you might start with “So how’s project X going?”  but you shouldn’t stop there. Instead, find ways to really get beneath the surface, asking questions like:

  • “What makes you say that?”
  • “Have you thought about how you’ll handle X?”
  • “How do we know we’re on track?”
  • “How do you think we should approach that?”

The idea is get beyond “everything is fine” and into how work is really playing out.

6. Set aside part of the check-in each week to give feedback. Having a structured time to reflect on what’s gone well recently and what you would have liked to have seen go differently makes it far more likely you’ll give regular feedback. Plus, by making feedback a routine part of your conversations, you’ll help normalize it so that people will be less likely to see it as an intimidating conversation that only happens occasionally.

I originally published this at Intuit QuickBase.

{ 74 comments… read them below }

  1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    This is great timing. I just started under a new manager and have been thinking about how to make our check-ins as effective as possible.

    I’d love to see a column on the same topic from the side of the person being managed. How can I help make sure that we’re making the best use of our time?

    Sometimes I have big, meaty questions that deserve input and conversation… but sometimes it’s been a routine week, just keeping on with the projects we’ve already talked over, things going smoothly, etc. On those weeks it can feel like I’m making up stuff to talk about. I can imagine this challenge is common for folks who work in routine jobs (not project driven but process driven).

    1. Anon*

      Ditto to this!! I’m in a new job and my manager schedules one one ones but there is no format. She said it is “my time” to ask her whatever I want. That’s not really helpful to me as I have no idea what I”m supposed to be asking her or talking to her about. It is really hard since she’s so busy I rarely see her, so these hours each week are very awkward for me not knowing what she wants me to talk about!

      While we’re at it: how do I tell my boss I’m overwhelmed with way too much work without seeming like I’m complaining or can’t handle it?

      1. T*

        What if you keep a notepad handy to jot down thoughts as they occur to you throughout the week? This could include questions as they arise or specifics about what leaves you feeling overwhelmed. I think if you bring your boss specifics (It takes me x hours to complete y every week, and z shows up in my inbox at the same time. How should I prioritize? Can Joe complete part of z before he passes it to me?).

        1. Bea W*

          I do this and find it enormously helpful. I sometimes also jot down what i have completed if there’s important things i’ve been able to close out. I bring the notebook to my meeting and refer to my list and make notes and check things off. When my boss asks if there’s anything else i want to discuss, i just check my notes and can easily see if there’s anything i forgot.

      2. KJR*

        As far as being overwhelmed with too much work, ask her to help you prioritize the items on your list. This way she gets a clear picture of everything you have on your plate, and you gt input on what she feels is important. I have used his approach many times in the past with much success. It’s always interesting when you find out something you thought was important is actually towards the bottom of your boss’s list.

        1. Bea W*

          My manager asked everyone to start keeping a spreadsheet listing all their projects and anticipated start and finish dates, status, and a column for the priotity level. It’s as helpful to her as it is to us because she gets a full picture of everyone’s workload. We use the spreadsheet in the meetings to prioritize. So that when i leave that meeting, i know exactly which items are at the top of the list. She has a bazillion other things going on so she likely won’t keep all the details straight, and having these spreadsheets which each employee is responsible for updating is hugely helpful in managing her resources who are largely working independently.

          1. Julie*

            This sounds like a good tool for me to use. We always have several projects going on at any given time, and I don’t usually keep track of everything I’ve accomplished, but it would be helpful if I did. I’m a contractor, so it’s always helpful to be able to point to everything I’ve accomplished and everything I’m working on, so the client continues to want to keep renewing my contract.

    2. holly*

      on the weeks i have no major questions, i usually stop by at the appointed time and say i have nothing to discuss, then ask my supervisor if she has anything. if not, we go about our day.

      1. PizzaSquared*

        I do this too (both as a manager and a managee(?)). But I sometimes feel like it can become a crutch. I know there are times that as an employee I’ve agreed to skip a 1:1 simply because I wasn’t in the mood for a meeting, or because I was engrossed in something I was working on. And there are also times that I think I don’t have anything to talk about, but once the conversation gets started, important items come up. I think it’s sometimes good to force it into a routine where you at least sit down together for 2 or 3 minutes to chat, forcing you to get over the hump of “meetings suck” or “I’m busy.” If neither of you truly comes up with anything after a couple of minutes of chit-chat, it’s fine to end the meeting. But for me, the “let’s skip it” thing too easily becomes an easy way out.

        1. Tris Prior*

          yeah, this is how it goes at my company too. Boss: “you got anything?” Me: “Nope, you?” Boss: “Nope.” Both: “OK then.” I can’t remember the last time we had our checkin, and we’re supposed to have it weekly.

          (and when we do, it’s often to give me an assignment that could’ve been discussed via email, so….?)

        2. Hooptie*

          At the very minimum each of you can open then go through your calendars/tasks together to review what is coming up – this is a standard part of all of my check ins. It’s a great way to trigger a conversation and help you to remember things you may have forgotten.

      2. EvaR*

        I wish this was an option where I work. We are process driven, like someone mentioned upthread.

        We are required to have one on ones every so often, and are told to bring something to discuss, and I never have anything, since my direct supervisor can’t actually change any of the processes, that goes through another group that we contract with, and I really have no discussion points about things like schedules (the same unless there’s a major holiday) or the dress code or seating chart or things like that. It’s nice to have the option to check in, but I wish we could skip it rather than being required to make something up.

    3. MaryMary*

      Think about starting a list of “big picture” topics for the weeks when you don’t have a lot to project work to discuss. Things like next steps in your career, educational or networking opportunities, questions about your company’s strategy, etc.

      If you do this, however, I’d suggest sending your manager a quick email beforehand letting her know what you want to discuss and why. You’ll have a better conversation if she can prep, and it’ll save Alison a letter: Dear AAM, out of the blue my direct report asked me to define our corporate strategy in a 1:1 meeting today…

    4. Vicki*

      Same here. Of the list of items at the quickbase article, the one that struck me most was “Managers should ask their staff members to create an agenda each week.” Looking back over 25+ years of work, I rarely would have had material for an “agenda”. I do weekly status updates. If I have a specific question, I’ll ask for tome to ask it (and usually don;t want to wait and average of 4 days for that opportunity).

      I’ve always considered the weekly one-on-one to be… honestly… a waste of time.

  2. Rat Racer*

    I think this is great advice – but I have a question: is it a good idea to carve out a few minutes of idle time during 1:1s with direct reports, just to hear how things are going within and outside of work (e.g. plans for the weekend? How is your new baby nephew?)

    To me, it feels good to build rapport with my team, and I’ll probably continue to do this anyway. But I’m wondering if, in general, this is considered good management practice?

    1. fposte*

      I’ll be interested to hear what people say. To me it seems weird for that to be a meeting agenda item, especially if it’s a weekly one; I know stuff like this from informal conversations if people feel like sharing. But if it’s working for you, I’m not going to argue.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I wouldn’t make it an agenda item, but I do think that in general this is a time to build personal rapport, and an easy way to do that is by taking a few minutes at the beginning for the sort of stuff you mention. Of course, you also need to know your audience; if you have someone who you know prefers to get straight into the agenda, that’s fine too.

    3. Jillociraptor*

      I have this with my direct report. We put “tv, gossip and general complaining” as an agenda item. We have a more friendly, personal relationship than lots of managers and direct reports, so it’s more of a joke (though we do talk about tv, gossip and general complaining).

      I think actually doing it is really important…if it helps you build rapport. If you’ve got a direct report who’s more private, it will probably have the opposite effect!

      1. Kelly L.*

        Heehee, in my group of friends we call this “cat stories.” They’re not even all about cats–it’s more the concept of, if we all get together for a game night, everybody will mill around for an hour talking about tv, new food/beers we’ve tried, dogs, and yes cats, before actually focusing enough to play the game. I could see this working in a work context, though obviously for a shorter period of time.

    4. BRR*

      In my team meetings (5 people) we usually end a little early and this is what happens.

      Some people do not like to discuss outside of work things at work though and I think it’s important to respect that.

      1. Anonj*

        I have two managers, and I enjoy casual conversation with one but not with the other. But he really seems to like to just “shoot the breeze” for a little while during each call, so I go along with it. I just try not to ask too many questions because then it would really drag on.

    5. Natalie*

      If you do 1 on 1s outside of the office (coffee shop or whatever) the walk or ride to and from is a nice way to have casual chit-chat time without “scheduling” it.

    6. Vicki*

      That really depends on your relationship with your direct reports and on their personality. Some of us consider Work to be Work (and keep a strong line between Personal and Work life). We also remember that Managers Are Not Our Friends.

      Whenever my managers have asked “personal” questions, I tend to wonder what the ulterior motive is. Why are they asking? WHy are we not talking about… work?

  3. Cath in Canada*

    Oh, what great timing! My regular manager’s away for three months, so I’m reporting to someone else while he’s away – someone I’ve worked with before on various projects, but have never reported to before. She asked how I wanted to structure our weekly one-on-ones, and I’ll definitely be sending her some of these suggestions!

    (She also wants to use these meetings to learn more about the two main areas I work on, because she doesn’t know much about the background science of either. So I’ll be doing some mini-presentations about various projects, too, which I am geeky enough to really enjoy doing!)

  4. Sarah*

    Can you do a blog post about making the most of staff meetings? My nonprofit CEO just has everyone report out on what they are doing (staff of 8) and it takes 2 hours! It’s not a good use of time or really productive.

    1. hildi*

      Curious if those two hours are legitimately for people to tell about what they’re working on, or does it derail into unrelated conversation? When our staff of has a monthly staff meeting, it can take two hours but I’d say about 75% of it is my coworkers with my supervisor going off track talking about tangential people-related things. They all have more seniority than me and another coworker and know all the same people (that me and said coworker don’t know) so it gets a little long and annoying. She’s visibly agitated and anxious to get back to work, but I just get bored. I think if we just did our report out on what we’re working on it literally would take about 30 min.

      1. fposte*

        Even if they stick to the briefing, that’s not a great use of meeting time–write it down, email it around, and save the meeting for things that should be discussed in real time.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      Years ago I had a manager that was described as having “diarrhea of the mouth” and his staff meetings were miserable. We’d go around the table and dryly tell what we were working on (which usually didn’t affect others), and then he’d spend a lot of time telling us things we already knew and things we had no interest in or need to know.

      On the other hand, I just got out of a team meeting where we dug into what each of us were doing, showing it on our monitor (it was a web meeting), and working through the issues with the group. We all learn from each other and it’s very useful. (It’s also necessary, because since we are in different locations, it’s the only way to learn from each other.)

    3. Chinook*

      We have 1.5 hour biweekly team meetings that are quite useful because the engineers usually don’t talk toe ach other about their projects. It isn’t that they are hiding anything, they are just really focused. We all report what are working on, bring up any issues and everyone else (whether it be summer student or department manager) is allowed to ask questions or give opinions. Some times these discussions get spun into separate meetings but other times a quick back and forth is all we need.

      I really noticed it when our room was double booked for a few meetings and we skipped them – people here ask for help when they need it but sometimes we forget that other people may have insight we never even thought of.

      1. Enid*

        Ha, that’s exactly what happens at my group’s meetings. Part of the problem is that my group basically comprises two different work areas — financial and admin — and in theory I guess we should all benefit from being aware of what both groups are doing, the truth is that I personally know nothing about the work the financial side does, and even when I try to follow along when they give their updates, I always zone out. And I don’t think the admin side has much relevance to the financial side’s work, either. But I could never acknowledge that out loud.

  5. HR Lady*

    I have 2 employees reporting to me. We have weekly departmental meetings when the 3 of us meet to do most of what Alison describes except any specific performance feedback. (We might discuss how to improve the next event after we hold one, for example, but I’m not giving them feedback that is specific to their own performance.) Would it be a good idea to add 1:1s each week? I’ve been reluctant because of the time it would take. Should I stop the departmental meetings and switch it to 1:1s?

    1. Sharm*

      That’s how my manager does it. I am not a fan of meetings, but personally, I think there’s value in having true 1-on-1 time with your manager. What if an issue arises between your two reports? They may not air it out if they’re meeting with you together? Not even anything awful; it’s just having a 1-on-1 gives you a sense of private space to discuss as freely as you can with your manager.

      Could you shorten the departmental meetings, or make them bi-weekly? Maybe make the 1-on-1s just 30 minutes too, to keep them short.

    2. CTO*

      I think both department meetings and 1:1s are helpful, even in a department of 3. Maybe your 1:1s could be less frequent (biweekly or monthly). That’s your opportunity to give and receive individual feedback, talk about career path, and make sure that the employee has a comfortable forum in which to air problems, whether that be with the other coworker, an issue in their personal life that’s affecting work, etc.

      Maybe ask your employees what kind of schedule would work best for them for both department and 1:1 meetings. Are the department meetings actually helpful (as in, does the employees’ work overlap enough that they benefit from meeting with each other, not just you)? Could you be equally effective with less frequency?

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I would choose 1:1s over a staff meeting any day. You want to give people feedback on an ongoing basis so it’s not a Big Scary Thing when you have to talk about something more critical. And you shouldn’t be giving feedback in a staff meeting, so if you’re not doing regular 1:1s, you’re probably not giving a ton of feedback, and especially not the more developmental, big-picture stuff.

  6. Whippers*

    I have a new manager who is very fond of 1:1s. Yesterday I had one with her which lasted five hours;which was fun.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      FIVE hours???
      Can’t tell if that “fun” was sarcastic or if it really was okay and fun.

      1. Whippers*

        Yeah, that was sarcasm. It was pretty much five hours of her talking at me and over me.

    2. Windchime*

      Yikes, that’s awful. My 1:1 is coming up in just a few minutes; it only happens ever other week and is scheduled for 30 minutes. Quick, easy, done.

    3. Clever Name*

      That’s insane! Did you break for lunch? Didn’t either of you have to use the restroom during that time? Or did you just sit there starving and holding it??

      I had an old boss who was very talkative. He was a great boss, and I loved him to death, but I learned not to stop by his office or schedule 1:1s with him right before lunch or at the end of the day. :)

  7. Mints*

    I’ve asked this question during interviews, and it is super illuminating (how often do you check in with staff). My favorite are actual answers like “Every other week” “Department meetings every Wednesday” or whatever. And some are sort of vague like “All the time.” But then there’s some answers like “At first I’ll talk to you every day, but one you’re trained I’ll be more hands-off” which sounds like the manager will drop off the face of the earth
    I’m hoping to screen for better managers, and this is really helpful

    1. Laura*

      Except, my boss would probably say “every day” but he’d mean the half-hour sprint meeting where we go around the room and tell everyone what we’re doing.

  8. HAnon*

    I’ve got a question…how to address questions related to work satisfaction, without sounding like a grump or a complainer? My boss frequently asks if we’re enjoying our work, etc, to the point where I feel like I can’t just have a bad day (by that I mean not constantly smiley because I’m dealing with a difficult vendor/timeline just got pushed up/all Hell broke loose/etc).

    I do understand that general satisfaction at work is important, but I also know that there will be things that are just plain stinky that happen at work…quite a bit. How can I communicate that, yes, overall I’m quite happy with my job, but still address things that might be potential issues without sounding like I’m complaining or dissatisfied with my general position?

    1. BRR*

      I think your phrasing you put is good. “Overall I’m quite happy with my job, one thing that has come up is …..”

  9. Sharm*

    This is good timing. I just had a conversation with my boyfriend yesterday about this topic, and I couldn’t convince him 1-on-1s were a good thing. He’s managing several interns over the summer, one of which already has issues that need to be addressed. Because their office culture is casual, my bf is planning on talking to the intern over a beer after work. (I know, I know.)

    When I asked why he doesn’t give feedback during a 1-on-1, he said he doesn’t see the point in 1-on-1s, because he works with the interns constantly every day.

    That’s how I’ve ALWAYS ever worked — closely with managers — yet I still always had a 1-on-1 at every job. If nothing else, it’s a private time to air out sensitive issues if need be.

    What else can I tell him to convince him even if you meet frequently for actual tasks, 1-on-1s are a good idea?

    1. CTO*

      1:1s have a different purpose than the daily check-ins about projects. 1:1s could be focused on things particularly valuable to interns: career growth and opportunities, safe time to ask questions about the workplace, making sure that they’re getting what they wanted out of the internship. If his interns are pretty new to the working world, it’s especially helpful to have a structured time for them to discuss these things. Otherwise they might be too timid to bring up concerns, struggles, etc. or feel afraid that the boss doesn’t have time to deal with them.

    2. Sadsack*

      Is your boyfriend new to managing? Taking someone for a beer seems like an awkward time to tell a person that he needs to improve on X in Y amount of time or Z will happen. I get the feeling that your boyfriend is not prepared to have a conversation like that, which may mean that the intern will not have a full understanding of what your boyfriend wants from him as an employee. Maybe you should direct your boyfriend to some AAM posts about how to have these conversations.

      1. Sharm*

        No, he’s managed for over 10 years, and has dealt with hirings/firings/difficult staff. It’s an office culture thing; it sounds like no one has regular 1-on-1s, so he doesn’t see the point of it for the interns. Even if that’s the case, though, I think they of all people should get them.

    3. MaryMary*

      To me, 1:1s are more about the people, while status meetings or check-ins are about the project. An important part of an internship is to help the person develop, and 1:1s are a great way to do that.

      You could also remind your boyfriend that a lot of people prefer structured time to talk, and are less comfortable saying, “hey, can I talk to you for a minute?” Especially if the work atmosphere is fast paced and everyone looks busy all the time. And some people need to be asked how they’re doing, or if they’re having problems, they won’t volunteer the information. I think particularly with people new to the workforce, the manager has to be the proactive one.

  10. Brett*

    My boss at my part-time startup job has a great two-part question he uses with check-ins.
    “What do you need right now to be more successful?”
    “How can I get that for you?”

    Another one he uses that has been very helpful.
    “What do you want to know about the company that you don’t know right now?”

  11. Laura*

    I’ve…never had a routine one on one in fifteen years of my career.

    This is so foreign, reading this.

    1. MaryMary*

      OldJob required managers to have regular 1:1s with the people they managed. It was part of performance reviews. For a while, monthly 1:1s were required, but eventually they relaxed the frequency requirement (to the great relief of everyone who managed more than four people).

    2. LeftyLou*

      I’ve been working for nearly 30 years, across 4 companies, from my way up from clerk to manager. I’ve never had any regular one on ones except a few years ago at current job, we used to get 30 minutes once a month to go over the status of our projects so our boss could prep for the monthly meeting with her boss. A couple of years ago she changed it to an email update, so there went any scheduled 1 on 1 time.

  12. Betty*

    Would it be too forward of me to suggest this to my manager? I would love to have weekly goals because we are both guilty of letting projects fall behind or disappear completely. The disorganization is driving me nuts.

  13. Bea W*

    My current manager makes great use of 1:1 time. We have a heavy workload, and a chunk of this check-in is used to update priorities and plans on balancing workload. I find it extremely helpful, especially when we can look at my workload together and identify priorities (which change all the time) and identify tasks that can be delegated to co-workers in order to allow me to focus on the items that are most important for me to be working on. If I need additional tools or support this is the time we discuss what I need and how I can get it.

    She also takes the time to give feedback, so I am aware of my general performance.

    When I was working along side my manager on a daily basis, the need for check-ins like this wasn’t really there, but where I am now, we’re all very independent and don’t even sit on the same floor. Our manager also has a huge workload and relies on us to take care of various day-to-day things and overseeing major projects without having to get her involved except in cases where there’s a budget issue or we need upper management buy-in. The check-in meetings are where she can get updates and ask questions and have a discussion in real time. Email updates are pretty useless since her inbox explodes on a daily basis.

  14. NylaW*

    Good timing on this post as we just started a rounding program with our managers. Currently it will be a monthly rounding where the manager meets one on one with each staff member individually, but I’ve been struggling with how to make these meetings useful and not so repetitive. I feel like we go over the same projects and things and nothing really changes, yet I feel like I have a lot of things I want to just tell my boss.

  15. Brooke*

    As an employee:
    – I proactively schedule bi-weekly 1:1s with my manager. I provide an agenda, but also read my boss’ mood and let him go off on tangents about the future of the business when he wants to. ~1 hr. I’m sure he’s never held 1:1s before, but he must like it because he’s started scheduling them with his other directs.

    For my own team, I hold:
    – Weekly 1:1s – typically 30 min (though some of my younger directs need/want more coaching and go longer). No agenda, but we have a project list on my whiteboard that we go off of. Ask how they’re doing in general, touch base on projects, talk about big picture stuff, confirm priorities, ask how they’re doing on bandwidth, leave room for any HR-type issues. I give feedback as we go and coach as appropriate based on their experience level.
    – Bi-Weekly Team Project meeting – every other week, 1-2 hours, group discussion of projects so that everyone can see, give feedback and brainstorm on other people’s projects.
    – Every 6 weeks – “Staff Meeting” – 1 hour max. I give updates on the “state of the business”, business strategy, big policy changes, hiring and other big picture things. Ask them what roadblocks they’re running into, if there are resources that would help them do their jobs better.

  16. Anonalicious*

    I’m amazed that so many people have so much to talk about that they need to meet weekly. I don’t think I need to talk to my manager more often than biweekly or even monthly. Many times there isn’t that much to discuss, or it’s already been discussed in other short conversations and email.

    1. Cassie*

      I can’t really imagine scheduling regular 1:1 with my boss, but maybe it’s because of the nature of my job (as his assistant). If there’s something that I want to discuss (concerns, etc), I’ll just go and ask if he has a minute. If it’s important enough for me to bring up to him, I don’t think I could wait a couple of days until a scheduled 1:1.

      I could see this being more useful for a work unit where there is one supervisor and a few/handful of subordinates. It would also give an opportunity for employees who are less inclined to speak up on their own (which I would probably be one of those staffers, if not for my particular job title/duties).

    2. mazzie*

      It depends, really. During launch periods, I’d have weekly 1:1s with my boss. Once launched, they would taper down to biweekly. A lot of the time it was “this is what I’m doing and what I need input on” and he would update me on priorities and business.

  17. MissDisplaced*

    I like this a lot! My manager works in another country and we need to do weekly check-in’s. I’ve never really been in this situation before, so I think it’s very helpful to keep things on track.

  18. Be the Change*

    I got my ass handed to me by one of my direct reports who was correct that I’d made an error of judgement, and I could have avoided both the error and a conflict if I’d been holding 1/1’s all along (at least monthly, probably not weekly because there are 6-9 people who report to me). So yes, I’ve started. Yes, they feel awkward at first. We’ll all get over it.

    My partner’s boss is supposed to have regular 1/1’s with him, but tends to cancel them, usually at the last minute, and not reschedule. For this reason in addition to a couple of others, my partner strongly believes that his boss doesn’t care about him or his area. So, if you decide to do 1/1’s, commit to it.

  19. E*

    This is really great, thanks. As a new manager, I have a boss who conducts amazing 1:1 meetings, but mine with my direct report aren’t anywhere near as efficient or useful. This helps to bridge that a bit and gives me specific practical advice.

  20. easy*

    This is really great, thanks. As a new manager, I have a boss who conducts amazing 1:1 meetings, but mine with my direct report aren’t anywhere near as efficient or useful. This helps to bridge that a bit and gives me specific practical advice.

  21. Julie*

    My former manager and I do most of the things on the list, although he doesn’t usually give me a lot of feedback. But now that I think about it, that tends to come up in the moment, when things are happening. On our weekly calls (we’re in different cities), I follow an agenda that I set up for myself because otherwise we could end up rambling. Usually once we start on a topic, he’ll have plenty to say about it, and we’ll get everything discussed that needs to be discussed. Also, he tells me what’s going on, office politics-wise. He has mentioned quite a few things over the years that I needed to keep to myself, and I appreciate his confidence in me. Now I have a new manager, and we haven’t had our weekly meetings yet (I’ve been so busy, I forgot to put it on the calendar), but I did set up a meeting between old boss, new boss, and me to transition everything, and that went well. I’m going to go set up the weekly meeting with new boss right now.

  22. Sarah*

    We instituted weekly check-ins, but they quickly devolved into project status updates and “what do you need from me” / “what do i need from you?” type meetings. I’m the subordinate. I e-mail status updates and include questions / topics for discussion in advance of the meeting. These often end up being over the phone, which is not ideal (and not necessary since we are at the same site at least 2x a week). However, virtual is fine for the more status-y meetings.

    My manager and I don’t have a great working relationship – very different styles and approaches to work. I’m trying to adapt. I think he’s very poor at one-on-one management (I’m his first and only direct report). So, I’m also trying to nudge him to give me what I need. I think my approach is too indirect, but I have trouble with directness over the phone with people I don’t really trust to be helpful when I share issues. (I have no trouble being direct with people I think have the ability and desire to help – I realize this is my issue, but it is SO hard!)

    I was blown away by a performance review 2 months ago (not in a good way), and I’ve regularly had issues with him that I haven’t been able to bring up. Usually others are present and it would make more sense to discuss an issue privately, but then the moment passes and I don’t bring it up ever (due to lack of 1-1 face time).

    I’d like to incorporate regular feedback / big picture stuff. I’d like to propose devoting one of our check-ins each month for development / feedback, but I don’t know how to change the pattern from weekly status stuff. Is sending an updated meeting notices explaining this (concisely) a reasonable approach, or too formal? I’d like to request that these be done in person and to have both of us ready to talk about things beyond Project X, Y and Z. My goal is for neither of us to be surprised at performance review time.

  23. EvilQueenRegina*

    I’m currently getting used to having check ins at all – my last manager used to do the yearly appraisals and mid-year reviews but other than that she never bothered unless there was a specific issue going on, and over time I grew to dread them because they’d formed negative connotations. (I think she didn’t do them because she had a lot of direct reports, all based in different buildings while she was in another altogether, and just didn’t take the time). My current manager tries to do them monthly, and even though in the ones I’ve had I haven’t actually been getting bad feedback, the dread of them approaching is still there. I know that this kind of thing isn’t unusual from things I’ve seen here and I’m trying to get past that. Any tips on how to do so?

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