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4 Tips for Better One-on-One Meetings With Your Manager

Don’t just sit back and wait to get the attention you need.

Are you getting the most out of your one-on-one meetings with your boss? According to a recent study, about 73 percent of employees meet with their team leader at least once a month. That’s not a lot of face time, so be sure you make the most of this important interaction with the following tips:

Show Initiative

If you are thinking, “What one-on-one meeting? I’m lucky to see my boss at lunch in the cafeteria once a month,” then you have your work cut out for you. But just because there isn’t a consistent meeting time set up with your team leader doesn’t mean there can’t be. You’ll need to take the initiative and request that a meeting schedule be set. Most likely you’ll need to “sell” this a bit—be ready with reasons why it benefits your boss, such as quicker decision-making on his or her part, your improved productivity or heading off problems at the pass. You might think, “Why should I have to sell this? Isn’t it my boss’s job to stay in contact with me?” Yep, it sure is. But remember: Communication is a two-way street. If you focus on what your boss “should” do, waiting for him or her to wake up and get with it, you will not get the attention you need to grow your career.

Clarify Expectations

If your one-on-one meetings with your team leader are unsatisfactory, maybe it’s because you and your boss have differing ideas about the meeting’s purpose. It’s OK to bring this up by saying, “I have a question about our one-to-one time together. I’m asking this so we’re as productive as possible—what are your expectations for this meeting? What outcomes would you like to see each month when we meet?” When you frame your question in the context of productivity, it doesn’t point the finger at anybody, so it reduces the likelihood of defensiveness. If your boss is stumped by the question, be ready with an answer that suggests the meeting’s agenda and format.

Get Organized

One of the best things you can do for your career is to maximize individual time you have with a work team leader, and to do this you’ve got to get organized. When I worked in corporate America, I kept a running list of things to discuss with my work team leader, Steve, at our next meeting. This discussion list contained things that were important, but not time-sensitive. Every time something came up that might require Steve’s attention, I asked myself, “Can this wait until our next 1:1?” If it could, I put it on the list. Examples included things such as career discussions, ideas for new projects and follow-up on tasks from previous meetings.

Think About the Bigger Picture

A lot of the communication between you and your boss most likely flows on a daily or weekly basis: urgent issues, status updates, small details that need to be passed along. Here’s what typically does not get discussed at the Monday morning huddle: your career aspirations. And with good reason: Daily interactions are meant for the business of getting your job done. Yet if you don’t make time to talk about your goals for the future, you will have less chance to respond to career opportunities as they arise. When you plan for your one-on-one meetings, think not only of the running list I mentioned above, but also think about the bigger picture: How can you grow as an employee? Whether you desire a promotion, or you’re perfectly happy with what you’re doing right now, it’s important to continually add to your skill set. When you meet with your manager, be ready to offer examples of progress you’ve made toward growth and solicit feedback on ways you can continue to improve.

One-on-one meetings with your team leader, although infrequent, are one of the best ways to improve yourself for future job opportunities. Make sure you are confident, prepared with an agenda and focused on the bigger picture, and you’ll have made great progress in capitalizing on this important communication method.

Jennifer Miller is a writer and leadership development consultant. This article originally appeared on her blog The People Equation. Follow Jennifer on LinkedIn and sign up for her free tip sheet: “Why is it So Hard to Shut Up? 18 Ways to THINK before you Speak.”

(Image via Brian A Jackson/