Sometimes 1:1s can feel like a check-up at the doctor’s office—they’re rigid, ingenuine, and routinely required. If taken advantage of, 1:1s are a great opportunity to discuss career goals, job satisfaction, and get to know your coworkers and boss on a deeper, more personal level.
In order to have an effective 1:1, schedule them far enough in advance, tailor them to each employee’s needs, and save time to just...talk. Ask them how their beloved toy poodle is or how their kids are enjoying preschool.
What topics should you cover in a 1:1?
Career growth. Discuss employees’ ambitions and aspirations within the company, and bring up advancement opportunities, skills to improve upon, and areas for growth.
Personal issues. If you’re dealing with anxiety in the workplace or have something going on at home—a sick family member, excess stress, etc—bring it up to your boss and try to reach a solution together.
Feedback. Everyone should strive for constant self-improvement at work, and 1:1s are the perfect time to give mutual feedback. Figure out what areas you’re slaying in, and what areas you can improve in.
Team improvement. Do you have ideas on how to increase efficiency within the team? Ideas for team building activities? Use this time to bounce ideas off each other on how to work better.
Interpersonal issues. If you’re struggling with dealing with a passive aggressive coworker, your manager might be able to help you cope and navigate the situation.
Here’s how to prepare…
If you’re the boss
This is your opportunity to improve your coaching skills and measure team morale and productivity. Schedule your meeting at least a month in advance and treat it like an important new client meeting. Your employees are the integral puzzle piece in producing awesome work, and it’s imperative to support them to your best ability.
Beforehand, do your research on the employee and make sure you know what they’ve been working on. Prepare a few questions to ask the employee to gauge how they’re doing at the company. Some good questions to ask include:
Are you encountering any challenges in your position?
Do you have any suggestions for improving the way we work together?
What keeps you engaged and inspired at work?
What projects have you enjoyed working on recently? Why?
How can I better support you in your job?
During the meeting, be flexible and keep the focus on your employee—you can let the employee steer the conversation if they’ve prepared an agenda. Be attentive and take notes. The 1:1 is only effective if you can remember what was said and can take the appropriate actions afterward to ensure your employee feels supported and valued.
Read more: Why You Should Keep a Work Journal
Toward the end of the meeting, make sure you’ve offered feedback to the employee and have made concrete plans for checking in again soon.
If you’re the direct report
This is your opportunity to hype up your work to your boss, set the tone for a future promotion, get feedback, and ask tons of questions. Before the meeting, you can make an agenda if you want to stay organized and on track during the meeting. Make a list of all the topics you want to hit and all the questions you want answered. Keep track of your major accomplishments throughout the year so you can prove your worth to the company and brag a little bit during your 1:1.
Here are some good questions to consider asking in your meeting:
I’m working on [X project] and have encountered [Y obstacle]. How would you approach this situation?
Do you have any feedback on my performance and on how I could improve?
What do you think my greatest strengths are?
What can I do now to increase my chances of advancement within the company?
During the meeting, celebrate your wins and discuss your long-term career goals. Your boss can’t read your mind, so it’s your job to clearly communicate where you envision yourself growing within the company. When the meeting’s coming to a close, inquire about what the next steps are on what you discussed and what’s expected of both of you between now and your next 1:1.
If you’re meeting with a peer
You won’t always meet with your manager—peer 1:1s are becoming increasingly popular. You don’t always get to know your coworkers on a deeper level, and this is your chance. Ask them about their vacation plans, hobbies, families, etc. In addition, you’ll get to share your perspectives on your work, share your knowledge, and maybe even commiserate about how you can’t stand the watered down office coffee.
During the meeting, discuss what projects you’re both working on and how you could potentially assist each other. As equals, you’ll easily be able to bounce ideas off each other on how your team can better collaborate to reach your goals. Offer a different perspective on the angle they’re taking on a project or fill them in on a new app that’ll help make their work process more efficient.
Keep in mind that peer 1:1s aren’t a competition—the goal isn’t to one-up each other with performance metrics and financial gains. Your goal is to learn from one another and brainstorm how you can improve internal productivity as a whole.