You should be running your 1-1s, not your manager

You should be running your 1-1s, not your manager

Biweekly 1-1s with my manager have been one of the best avenues for retrospective, career planning and seeking advice since I started a full time role.

The initial 1-1s after joining Glints were highly productive, I received a lot of feedback, both on things I should continue doing and things I should stop doing. During that time, my manager ran my 1-1s. He asked great questions starting from how I was feeling in day to day work to how I thought I was moving along in my career with some good retrospective questions mixed in there.

But after 4-5 months, the 1-1s did feel not as productive as before. After completed a 1-1; within the next few days, I always found myself thinking of things I missed to discuss with my manager, things I needed advice on. I put all the onus of running an effective 1-1 on my manager with me being a little bit of passive actor in the 1-1s.

This continued for a few months, after which I tried to come up with a solution to overcome the problem of me missing discussion points in our 1-1. I started keeping a log of things to discuss with my manager on notion throughout the week, which helped cover all my points of discussion in the 1-1 session but boy did the 1-1 session started becoming too long at that point. Thankfully, my manager was accommodating of the extended time, but it isn't a good sign if every session ran over its intended time.

One more thing I noticed was that since I kept the log of the things I wanted to discuss in my private Notion, most of the points where I needed advice from my manager were new to him. While, I could get advice on most of the things I had written down in my agenda, for some of the things, my manager also needed time to think through since he's also human.

To solve these two problems, I started preparing agenda on our shared 1-1 document in advance for him to review. That was a game changer in our 1-1s moving forward. The agenda had 2 kind of points:

  • Points tagged with [Update] at their beginning. These were things that were good for my manager to be aware of, to be in touch with what's happening at the ground.
  • Points tagged with [Discussion] at their beginning. These are points that I need to discuss for the improvement of the team, personal career planning or anything that I need to get advice or brainstorm on.

Having my manager have a pre-read of the agenda helped with 2 things:

  • The updates could be read ahead of time and that was time saved for the other important discussions
  • Having discussions listed down helped me prioritise and time-box each discussion to fit the designated session time
  • It gave my manager some time to think about the problems before having the 1-1 agenda with me
  • I stopped missing important things to discuss
  • One of the main points was that it reduced any blindspots from the manager side, while every manager might have good questions to sus out important points of discussion, it is unrealistic to expect that those questions will cover all the things that are important to you.
  • I've had two managers over my course at Glints, both amazing mentors and it felt like setting the agenda from my side helped me get the best value I can from the opportunity of having those mentors to give me advice.

ABOVE ALL: My career development is my responsibility, setting my agenda every 1-1 has provided with a higher ownership of my own development, which would not be possible by being less active in my career development journey. I realised early on that someone setting my goals for me just doesn't work in terms of development.

While this requires significant pre-work from my side, the effort has been worth it in most of the cases. But having this pre-work means that I don't religiously set the agenda every time, but try to aim to do it 70% of the time which goes a long way.

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