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Every week I have a one-on-one meeting with my manager. This is a new thing we started at my workplace. I am not quite sure what kind of things can/should I be asking in this meeting. Can someone give me some leads on this ?

Thanks

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2  
One thing it should not be: a time to give a project-specific status report. If it always boils down to this, you aren't communicating enough with your manager. –  Merlyn Morgan-Graham Jan 9 '12 at 10:32

9 Answers 9

If your manager lets you ask questions, all is well. They are genuinely interested in your well-being, ideas that you'd like to explore for your future career, difficulties you're encountering in your workplace and in carrying out your responsibilities which might be endemic, and, generally, in making sure you're in the right place at the right time, and learning. In this case, think about the people you'd like to emulate, or departments you'd like to be working, conferences you'd like to go to, jobs and tasks you want to take on - anything your imagination and ambition suggests - then ask how you get there.

Occasionally - very rarely! - I meet a manager who's on a power trip. In that case, it doesn't matter what you ask or answer. They'll use it as a way to showcase their superior knowledge and experience and come away feeling more powerful. If you actually do know more than they do, bear in mind that they only came to see you to be able to feel superior - and if you don't let them do that, you leave with an enemy. If you think that your manager is doing this, this is a great opportunity to escape and find another job (unless your job involves meeting, and changing, those kind of people).

All people want to matter to the world, and most people are in the first category. Seriously, most people, including managers, are nice people who just want to do a good job and aren't sure how. You can ask them anything you like, as long as it's relevant, and you'll both learn.

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Does the manager know what this is for? –  Vaibhav Garg Feb 10 '12 at 3:36

One on one meetings are one of the Manager Tools trinity. They are a weekly meeting with the goal of maintaining good, open communication, and continuing to build the manager and direct relationship. You should feel free to talk about anything you want to: your work, your family, your pets, your hobby, your challenges, your career. The primary focus of the meeting should be YOU.

There's a whole load more info on one on one meetings on the Manager Tools website if you want to dive into more detail. The same website also has a good non-manager focused 'Career Tools' podcast.

Of course there is always the possibility that your manager is doing something less structured than what Manager Tools suggests, but their goal is probably still the same i.e. to get to know you better and to understand what you are working on and what challenges (personal or work related) you have.

PS I don't have any ties to Manager Tools :-)

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I've seen several different reasons for having a 1-2-1 meeting, and it only reinforces my belief:

The only person that can really tell you what's the purpose of these one-to-one meetings between you and your manager... is your manager.

Why?

1-2-1 meetings can be used for anything. Most of the answers we have here (specially Perry's and dlongman's) are, in general, the best answer for 1-2-1.

In short, these meetings are supposed to be used for any topic that's not expected to be openly discussed with the whole team.

I do agree also that there might be lots of 1-2-1 meetings being wrongly conducted / misused, as Lunivore mentioned with the fresh manager who has just taken the 'wand of power'.

Therefore, you can expect to have in these meetings what's already discussed in other answers. But you will only know and understand for sure how to take the best of them asking it to your manager.

Suggestion: During next meeting, I'd suggest you to clarify, on a very direct and objective way:

  • What's the purpose of these meetings?
  • What's the level of detail you'd like me to use?
  • What are the topics to be discussed during these meetings? Project? Company? Career?
  • Who came up with this idea (that's a sensitive question but might help you to understand the big picture)?
  • Am I allowed to ask you about any topic I'd like to?

I believe having direct answers for these questions will give you support to a candid approach during next meetings. If you get only evasive answers... then something is wrong.

Success!

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Exactly. The purpose must come straight from the horses mouth. But don't you think that the manager ought to have clarified this upfront, which he apparently did not? –  Vaibhav Garg Feb 9 '12 at 11:36
    
Exactly, @VaibhavGarg. That's the reason why I've added the 4th question. If the manager didn't explain enough what was the purpose of it... I'd guess that maybe there were a management meeting with 'next best practices to be applied', including 121 meetings... but although having the what, the why has been forgotten, throwing some less seasoned managers on total oblivion. –  Tiago Cardoso Feb 9 '12 at 11:47
    
What, without the why, causes even the "what" to be unsustainable. No one can continue doing something long term when there seems to be no apparent purpose. Great answer and a +1! –  Vaibhav Garg Feb 10 '12 at 3:35

The best answer for this question will be when you start thinking from the manager prospective that what a manager wants from an employee through 1 to 1. It is as simple as that, he just wanted to be a resolver of your issue and problems and want you to be motivated and organized [in terms of your projects].

What you are asking is more related to the relationship between you and your manager. You can open your thought as much as you find comfortable with him. In real worl, from my perception, honesty may or may not be the best policy. Some people thinks that 1 on 1 is only to show your concern but when I checked the possibility in that I found that it could be related to the improvement in any process in the organization which you think needs to be changed for better functioning or you want to suggest new features.

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One on one meetings are an addition to the annual performance review in my experience. It's an opportunity to discuss current issues/ achievements. Engage in a dialogue about what might be helping/hindering. Coach the employee. Etc.

That said you need to gauge the organization. If one on ones have just been implemented, you may find some managers who are unsure of the value. My advice is to ask your manager how you both can make this a valuable use of your time. Have patience, effective one on ones are like gold.

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The best thing you can do for your manager is to inform him/her about your risks and issues (what may go wrong and what is already wrong). This information will help the manager to manage you and the project more effectively.

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face-to-face meetings are a good idea, but an every week meeting seems really to close, to me. I have a face to face meeting with my manager every 3 months, and sometimes, I can hardly bring something up to say.

Don't get out of sight that meetings are the right tool for taking decisions. If you need a formal meeting for regular info transmission, you probably have a communication issue in your company/service.

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I'd disagree. I have monthly meetings with my line manager and I would find them too infrequent were we not to have other meetings as a group of managers. Weekly or fortnightly is probably about right for someone new to a company. If you have nothing to say you can always finish the meeting early, after all. –  Owen Blacker Feb 7 '12 at 22:27
    
@Owen Blacker: Useless meetings are cluttering agendas, it's not only about finishing the meetings early. If you really have use for a monthly meeting with your manager, maybe you should talk to him more often, in a more informal manner? –  Alexis Dufrenoy Feb 19 '12 at 10:02
    
Oh absolutely, useless meetings are A Bad Thing. But regular meetings with your line manager are definitely A Good Thing. I do chat to my manager in an informal sense quite often. But we're both very busy people, having a regular appointment in the calendar means that we don't let important issues slide. Regular contact with your line manager is vital to one's career progression and to ensuring problems are caught early. Informal chat just don't cut it. –  Owen Blacker Feb 20 '12 at 11:22
    
I never disagreed with that... –  Alexis Dufrenoy Feb 20 '12 at 14:06
    
Fair enough :o) –  Owen Blacker Feb 20 '12 at 14:46

If you haven't taken a listen to "Manager Tools" then I highly recommend it. They are spot on with a lot of their advice and I know a VP that switched his one on ones to this format and got very positive feedback from everyone who worked with him.

Here is a link to their FULL set of "one on one" specific topics (there are A LOT).

http://www.manager-tools.com/taxonomy/term/7

Here are two links to the "one on one" basics to get started.

http://www.manager-tools.com/2005/07/the-single-most-effective-management-tool-part-1 http://www.manager-tools.com/2005/07/the-single-most-effective-management-tool-part-2

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+1 for the link! –  Tiago Cardoso Feb 10 '12 at 16:23

1 on 1 meeting is an opportunity for you and your line manager to get together to discuss anything that is company related that would affect your work, or the relationship between you and your line manager. The affects could be good or bad, depending upon the situation.

For me, I have a regular monthly meeting scheduled. That doesn't mean that we meet every month, but the time is scheduled if we need it. This works particularly well if your line manager travels a lot and is hard to catch for that "water boiler" chat, or if your line manager does not have much to do with your day-to-day work activities.

I tend to keep project related issues out of the 1 on 1 meeting as these are more for discussing with the project manager (unless they are the same person).

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