Archive for March, 2016

How to make the most of a manager 1—1

The weekly manager one on one (1v1, 1:1, 1—1, choose your own punctuation) is a staple for office workers in contemporary corporate culture. Whether it’s weekly, every other week, or once a month, you’ll meet with your manager and have no idea what to say. At least, I didn’t know what to talk about.

When I started my career I had a few wrong assumptions about the weekly manager meeting. First, I assumed that the manager meeting should only happen when my manager sent me a calendar invitation. I ran into a situation where my weekly meeting suddenly disappeared off my calendar, and I assumed that this was an intentional cancellation. Three weeks later, I finally asked my manager about it, and he apologized for the lapse; he had not renewed the calendar invitation. I learned that if I had spoken up sooner, the problem would have been fixed right away.

Second, I assumed that the meeting had a specific agenda or desired outcome every week. I was a little frustrated about how open ended it was. My manager straightened me out, saying that often the agenda is just “let’s catch up.” I learned that this can still be valuable, just as a way of building a rapport and a relationship with my manager.

More recently I have come to realize that I can control the agenda in these meetings. If I plan ahead a little, I can think about what I want to talk about. There are a few areas that I’ve found valuable to bring up.

Managers are busy. They have other meetings, get hundreds of emails a day, and generally can’t keep track of everything going on around them. I found my manager one on one more valuable when I viewed it as an opportunity to make my manager aware of how I add value. I can help them by talking about the following:

  • Something I did successfully this past week
  • Talk about a time I helped someone with my expertise
  • Talk about how I’m completing my work on time, or if I’m my work is pushing beyond the estimate, why this is the case.
  • Talk about any advice I received, or any decisions I made.

Generating this kind of awareness or visibility can feel like self-promotion. However, I like to think of it as helping my manager be aware of the value I’m adding to the company. From a manager’s point of view, would you rather have to go pester each person and figure out what their doing? Or would you rather have them come to you and proactively give updates on how they’re kicking ass.

Another idea for the weekly manager meeting is to have a conversation. It’s a time slot in my week when I are not expected to be “heads down” coding. Instead of focusing on the quantitative, I can focus on the qualitative. I got this idea from the Hanselminutes episode “Speak up and present with confidence.

In this same vein, it is a chance to make sure I’m on the same page regarding any recent changes to projects I’m are working on. Was there an announcement that impacts my priorities? Did the process change? I can use the weekly meeting as an opportunity to make sure that I understand what is expected of me.

Hopefully these ideas help you like they helped me. Think of it this way: you’ll have that 30 minute time slot on your calendar regardless; why not make the most of it?