How to have a productive 1-on-1 with your manager

Charles Stover
5 min readJun 8, 2020
two businesswomen in a meeting

Your 1-on-1 conversations with your manager are some of the most important and productive opportunities for you to improve your career satisfaction and achieve career growth. It’s easy to struggle for a topic of conversation, especially when you are a recent hire and have yet to establish yourself among the team. In this article, I will share with you some tips for preparing for your meeting, the questions I ask during my meetings, and how to promote the most personal growth.

Preparation ✍

As your week is progressing, take notes of what you may want to ask or discuss with your manager. You may want to confirm some best practices as they arise. Do you understand what to do and why? Does the team need to adopt practices that you feel bring value? You may feel unsure about a decision you made and seek clarity. Was it right, and why or why not? What would your manager suggest you do differently in the future?

Of particular value, note any difficulties you have had with other team members. Use this personal time to air pent up anxieties and angers before they leak through during team meetings and communication. Your manager can filter and anonymize this feedback into a constructive conversation with the third party during their 1-on-1 sessions.

Be able to rank your discussion topics by priority. Some topics may need to wait until following 1-on-1 meetings. Make sure when going into your meeting that what you need (or want most to be) addressed now gets addressed.

Prepare to drive 🚘

When discussing topics of interest to you, be ready to take charge of the direction of the conversation. If your manager gets off topic or misinterprets your question, redirect the conversation back to your intent. This meeting is for you. You decide what is discussed, and — behavior correction aside — you can determine that a topic is not worth your time. You do not need to wait for an eventual point that your manager is making if it is not the point you are wanting to reach. Don’t let a derailed conversation put your goals at risk.

If this conversation-driving behavior feels unnatural in your relationship with your manager, you may become more comfortable by prefacing the conversation with…