The one-on-one conversations that you have with your manager are one of the most pertinent. However, it can yield the most benefit only when you make the maximum out of it. It is ultimately in our hands as to how we make the most out of this time in our daily working hours. 

One-on-one conversations

Are one-on-ones status updates?

Status reports have no meaning unless supported with context, and that’s precisely the problem 1:1s try to solve. Provide managers with meaningful regard for their status reports uncovering insights. During one-on-ones ensure you address bost the pros and cons of your everyday profile. Though employees tend to emphasis on their roadblocks first, the progress part of the equation is equally valuable and helps managers note down how you were able to overcome an inevitable barrier and uncover this context during your performance review at a later stage. Being honest about everything helps you make an excellent overall impression.

As managers, you probably have some idea about the capability of your people, and who might struggle with what. Therein in lies, your wisdom, to frame your questions in a way that elicits honest responses. Here you might find a specific problem that overlaps with another issue with a different employee and might able to figure out where the pieces fit in. Asking them about small victories helps your employees acknowledge that you care and feel more comfortable having open communication. Asking them to critique themselves give you a chance to see the issue in their shoes, and then offer your side of the perspective. Doing this could provide both you and your employee insights about each other’s approach to the same issue.

Can I talk about my long term goals?

One on ones can also be used to discuss long term career goals, that help clear up the questions of growth within the organization. Doing this can even open new doorways for your employees and helping them decide if they want to move to a different team in a different role or continue to succeed in their current position.

Can I include requests?

One on ones can also include requests for anything that makes you more productive in an hour working hours. It could be anything from more ethernet cables or clocks, and it puts in perspective as to what both parties are working towards, achieving company objectives in the shortest time.

Can you talk about colleagues during 1:1s?

Though the point of these conversations is to talk more about yourself and your contribution, it is not uncommon to address specific feedback about your peers, if and when specifically requested by your manager. If you have something positive to say, you can very well go ahead and share that with your manager, however, if it’s something not so positive and if you believe your peer has a chance of correcting himself when politely pointed out, extend that courtesy before you start complaining to the teacher. However, if you think there’s something that needs to be brought to the attention of your manager, doing so as soon as possible is the best possible course of action in most situations.

What and what not to escalate? 

If there’s a specific impediment or a roadblock that prevents you or your teammates from carrying out your everyday routine effectively, then it needs to be escalated. Typically if it is a team issue, it is best when brought to the attention of your manager. Though one-on-ones are meant to address individual concerns, these common problems do get the leeway if it’s pertinent enough and you do not have to wait until the next common avenue like a team meeting to address it. 

One-on-one clarification

Can I ask clarification on rumors?

If you believe something is being spoken about in the team and would like to get clarified, you can go ahead and ask about it to your manager. Worst case, you would have brought in the knowledge of something he was not even aware of. However, your manager may or may not choose to answer the question, especially if he’s taken up by surprise. 

Can I talk about hobbies?

1:1 conversations as such, need not be strictly about work, just the way you’d casually diverge towards casual conversation in an interview, you can very well ask your manager, if they would like to go fishing.  Opening up about your hobbies that aren’t necessarily too personal will invite an equally honest response and make your manager see you as a person.

My manager keeps dodging 1:1s 

Managers can often shy away from one-on-ones as they aren’t fully equipped to deal with having difficult conversations. Sometimes, they could be too busy, so ensure they are avoiding you before you come to that conclusion. If you can prepare a clear structure and approach them with a clear agenda, it will signal that you are willing to address the elephant in the room and that may make it easier for them to talk about the issue. 

Why are one-on-ones periodic? 

Because context is critical to have a conversation and frequent conversations build a baseline context. One on ones provides a safe space for the exploration of both the employee and manager’s expectations with one another. This activity allows for an opportunity to invest in each other’s growth personally. Doing one-on-ones means that you show up for these conversations when it gets complicated and when it gets easy. 

How to talk about self-performance? 

Form a picture in your manager’s mind about how you are always pushing the boundaries of your role. Once you have established, you are still knocking on the ceiling to raise it; further, you can continue to start being objective and impersonal. Doing this would help your manager see you as the ideal person in that role.

How Set an agenda? 

Start with a weekly update of the collective team agenda. Use your time before the meeting to come up with topics that address immediate and long term concerns. Start with the challenges you are facing, and then progress and then summarize an overall update. Apart from performance issues, you can also discuss how to go from where you are to where your manager wants to be, in terms of outcomes. Address changes in your working style or behavior that he thinks will make you a better performer. 

Where to start the conversation?

Check-in responses can be a great ice breaker. Start with a simple question about how you both are feeling today.? As a manager, the easiest way to gauge if your employee is forthcoming is to see how they respond. As an employee, resist the urge to say what your manager thinks is the right response and feel free to speak your mind. In fact, the more you believe, the more obvious it is that you are ignoring feelings. The more authentic you are, the more natural the flow of the conversation.

How to address previous objectives? 

These are the OKRs that were set in the previous 1:1 conversations. Start by talking about the progress of the current quarterly objective and the scope for improvement in their performance or roles. Ask for new initiatives that can be made towards existing Key-Results 

What to address as a manager? 

Talk about how your employee is managing time, and how they can get better at the same. Address how communication between the two of you is vital and tell them the steps they can take to adopt responsive communication. Highlight instances where taking ownership of a mistake was a tremendous positive for you in your career and encouraged them to do the same without being sorry or guilty. Be critical about skills gaps that you believe is necessary to survive in that position. Gauge and open up about their risk-taking capabilities within the role. However, ensure you strictly address these issues in context with their professional performance and not their personal life. 

Addressing one-on-ones as a manager

Can I talk about workplace stress? 

One on ones can very well be used to address Address your concerns about being stuck in work. A good manager only allows their employees to have just enough discomfort to grow in their roles, but never pile up so much work that they are stressed and shut down completely.

101 about One-on-Ones

Ensure you provide clear expectations during a conversation and ensure you follow up with your employee regarding any additional input before the deadline. Every time failures are addressed ensure it is in real-time as opposed to being weeks later. Doing this transforms punishment into care. Have an open conversation about how the report views the team culture, and if they like working there. Ensure you do not only care about their numbers but for a quality workplace that provides balance with meaningful work. Try to understand what company values mean for them and how they are trying their best to upkeep them. Celebrate even small successes as everybody wants to be appreciated for their contributions. Use these highlights to lighten up an awkward performance conversation. 

To conclude, 1:1 conversations are a tad bit more than your regular communications. They are a great tool of productivity that can be harnessed to bring positive business outcomes. Since their relative simplicity to practice, and helping leaders and employees collaborating to become better, they come in handy for most modern organizations. These conversations help both your employee and managers to grow into passionate contributors.
As an organization, we believe in conspiring for each other’s greatness. The conversations that take place during one on ones help employees to grow, contribute their gifts, and to live fulfilled lives.