The weekly one-on-one meeting is not something to take lightly.
Your boss or manager is your biggest ally, willing to do everything in his power to help you perform your best. Your one-on-one is a prime opportunity to get real work done, remove obstacles, and tackle your biggest challenges together. But are you maximizing this opportunity? Here are a few reasons you might not be getting everything out of the meetings you could be.
1. You're underprepared
Your one-on-one is an opportunity that shouldn't be wasted because you haven't prepared thoroughly. Come to the meeting with a list of questions, suggestions, and real problems to dig into with your manager. It's best to err on the side of having too much content prepared to discuss rather than having an empty and unproductive conversation.
2. You're overprepared on the wrong things
On the other hand, going into your one-on-one with a nice-looking internal PowerPoint presentation tells your manager one thing: You've got the wrong priorities. Sure, your presentation might be impressive, but as a manager I want to have the confidence that you are spending every minute of the day moving the business forward instead of just trying to look good to me. Managers want to see things like wireframes, customer feedback, product metrics, and data that help them continue to make good decisions. It doesn't have to be pretty to be effective.
3. You are only reporting on the past instead of working on the future
Traditionally, a majority of time in one-on-ones is spent reporting on work that's happened in the past. While review is an important part of growing as an employee, try to focus most of your time looking forward, focusing on solving your biggest upcoming problems. The best way to make use of your time is to identify your challenges and opportunities, then talk about your plans, get feedback, and solve those problems together.
4. You don't have a clear agenda
Lots of employees make the mistake of pinging their mangers the instant an issue, idea, or update pops up during the week. It's great to be informed as a manager, but no one wants his or her time constantly hijacked. Instead of emailing things right away, maintain a one-page document prioritizing ideas and problems that can be discussed in your meeting.
5. You don't have data to back you up
Data is your best friend in a one-on-one meeting. At my company, Porch.com, we always ask, "Where is the data?" when evaluating new ideas or determining how past releases have performed. Data gives context to problems and without it, your ideas are simply speculation. Give yourself the best opportunity for a successful meeting by coming with real data to support your proposals.
6. You end the meeting without clear actions going forward
A one-on-one has gone well when an employee and manager walk away with clear and actionable steps moving forward. Don't be afraid to ask to do a short review of the next steps at the end of the meeting. The review will add clarity to the tasks ahead for both parties and make sure the meeting creates actual value and progress for the company. In the following week, be disciplined and lead by performing on the commitments made the previous week with progress against each item discussed.
Companies today value speed, nimbleness, and the entrepreneurial spirit--why should your one-on-ones be any different? Do yourself and your company a favor by taking the necessary steps to get the most out of them.