On top of their other responsibilities, a manager must recruit staff, maintain a professional work environment, make sure the office runs both smoothly and efficiently, know how to handle a project management crisis, act cool under pressure (hopefully), anticipate the needs of their employees and communicate expectations by establishing strategic goals with staff throughout the month.
With being a manager comes the expectation of achieving higher goals each month, and of course, the discussion of those goals; otherwise known as the one-on-one. The one-on-one with your boss is often a feared or desired meeting, depending on the status of your project or pipeline.
Some managers use one on ones purely as status meetings, which can be a little frustrating since they're an opportunity for mentorship and to build rapport.
Andy Grove, the CEO of Intel, says, "Ninety minutes of your time can enhance the quality of your subordinates work for two weeks, or for some, eighty-plus hours." There's no doubt they're rewarding, so if your boss is too focused on status, here's some key advice to making the best out of your one on ones:
Come With an Agenda
One on ones should allow some time for the subordinate to ask questions, bring up issues and strategize with their boss. Always come prepared with an agenda, from work items to even personal ones so your manager gets to know you as a well-rounded person. Share with your manager that you'd like to come prepared.
Quickly Go Over Status
Too many managers want to spend your time together going over your deadlines, which affect their deadlines. The majority of your meeting is sucked up going where projects are at.
This can be a huge waste of both your time, especially if everything is already on track. It could be done in an email. One on One gurus Mike Auzenne and Mark Horstman suggest a red, amber, and green status update color theory in their podcast Manager Tools.
- Green, you're hitting the deadline,
- Amber means it is close to call,
- Red means its failing.
This allows communication to quickly go through the good, the bad and the ugly, and focus on getting the red to green.
Ask for Resources Where You Need It
You're behind on your tasks. If you're in sales, maybe you aren't hitting your quota. Macro-managers may just take status and offer to help you hit your deadlines, but if you want to get ahead, you need more than just your manager.
Ask your manager for a mentor within the organization that is hitting their deadlines and has strengths where you're weak. It may not be the person you expect, but because your boss is attuned with everyone's problems, he or she has a better understanding.
Ask if you could sit with this person an hour or two during the week and see what you could do differently.
Share Goals, Even Outside the Organization
Maybe you want to move up, or to another department. Perhaps you want to grow in specific areas. Your manager may know that your company has the resources to get you there, whether it's e-learning, grant money, or corporate training.
Also, share if you're trying to lose weight, find love or whatever else is on your plate. Sometimes we find ourselves hiding things from our managers, and it ends up hurting us. Building that personal relationship makes them emotionally vested in us. Managers are people too.
Ask for Feedback
The dreaded criticism of what you might be doing wrong. This, however, is an opportunity to find out how you're performing before you get evaluated. Ask your boss what you can do to make his or her job easier. Just as some of the most unforgettable bosses bring the office together and are proactive with potential issues, the best employees are those who anticipate their manager's needs.
The easiest way to figure that out is to ask. The hardest part is to not argue or become defensive when receiving the feedback, but accepting it. If it doesn't feel right, ask a few people who know you well, such as a mentor or co-worker and see if it rings true. Occasionally, you will have a passive aggressive manager who will give you criticism that might be a projection of their own flaws.
Don't take it personally, and use that feedback to grow, when appropriate. Making the best of a one on one requires being prepared, sharing, and being open to feedback. These tactics will help you build a solid relationship with your boss and could lead to a more meaningful life - both in work and outside of it.