An Employee's Guide to Better One-on-One Meetings

“Oh, no, my next one-on-one meeting is coming up! I really don’t know what to talk about with my manager. I wish I didn't have to do these.” - disempowered employee

Are you unclear about the purpose of one-on-one meetings? Do your one-on-ones lack substance, depth or focus? This is true for many people.

Today we discuss one-on-one meetings and how employees can make the most of them. We’ll address this topic from the manager’s perspective in a subsequent article. Whether you’re an employee or manager, we’ll show you how to take advantage of one-on-ones as a valuable opportunity to reflect on your professional growth, get and incorporate feedback, and improve your listening and empathy skills.

One-on-One Meetings Are Not Just For Problem-Solving. They Are Designed For Employees’ Growth.

Many people think of one-on-one meetings with their managers as time to check in on tasks and projects, answering questions like, “What’s working? What’s in the way? What’s needed to stay on track and succeed?”

One-on-ones go much further. One-on-ones put people and their growth at the center, instead of tasks. They create space for employees to raise topics that are important to them, but may not be appropriate for other settings. For example:

  • short-term and long-term goals

  • performance feedback for the employee

  • questions and feedback for the manager

  • career advancement

  • areas for development

  • team relationships and team culture

  • employee happiness and wellbeing

The two-way conversation builds trust and strengthens the relationship between employee and manager. The ultimate goal for one-on-one meetings is to help the employee be more successful in the organization. The infographic below provides a quick overview of the key differences between a Touchbase and One-on-One.

5 Steps to Make the Most of Your One-on-One Meetings with Your Manager

Since one-on-one meetings put the person at the center, you, the employee, have full responsibility to drive the success of the meeting. Here are some ways to make the most of your one-on-ones:

1. Self-reflect to explore what matters most to you before each one-on-one.

Use the following questions to think about different aspects of your work experience. Jot down your ideas and use them to identify what stands out for you:

  • What are your short-term and long-term goals?

  • What do you need from your manager to advance your career?

  • What do you think about your collaboration with others? What do you like or dislike about the team culture? What could you do to improve it?

  • What aspects of work make you excited and energized?

  • Has something been troubling you recently?

  • In what areas would you like to get more coaching or feedback?

  • What feedback do you want to give to your manager? What questions do you want to ask him/her?

  • What are the things your team or company is not doing, but should be?

  • How do you feel about your workload and priority setting?

  • Do you feel challenged at work? What skills do you want to develop now?

  • What are the competencies you’re working on? How can your manager help you achieve your development goals?

2. Write one sentence to summarize what you want to achieve in the meeting.

What do you want to get out of this conversation? What type of feedback are you seeking? Do you need any support? Every one-on-one conversation might have a different focus, so it’s helpful to identify what’s most relevant and define desired outcomes in advance. Here are some examples for you to use:

  • feedback on my performance (project work, teamwork or specific skill development)

  • ideas to address my current challenges or concerns

  • advice or support on a specific aspect of my work

  • action plan on developing my skills

3. Set the context for the topics you’re going to talk about.

After going through the first two steps, you may feel energized and ready to jump into the discussion. Don’t forget that your manager might not know all the details you’ve already thought through. Provide background information to help your manager get a sense of the full picture and then advance the conversation.

4. Drive the conversation. Don't shy away from difficult topics.