10 Tips for Having 1 on 1 Meetings with Your Boss

I recently asked readers to submit their burning leadership development questions. Those that get picked for a post
will receive a free copy of

This question
from Jennifer:

“Can you give us some tips and tricks
for 1X1 meetings with your boss, including how to prepare for the meeting and
ways to discuss your career and goals?”

Sure can!

I’ve written
a post on the same topic for managers:
How to Have an Effective 1 on 1. So, I’d suggest starting with
reading that in order to get an understanding of what your boss is looking for.

let’s assume most bosses haven’t read that post. After you anonymously leave it
on their desk, here are some “tips and tricks” written from the employee’s
perspective, on how to have an effective one on one meeting with your boss:

1. Request regular one-on-ones with
your boss.
I’ve only
had one boss where I had a hard time nailing him down for regular meetings, but
most have readily agreed. You don’t have to sit back and wait. Everyone, at any
level, from entry-level to executive, should be having regularly scheduled
meetings with their bosses. The frequency, duration, agenda, and style may
vary, but it’s a must!

2. Prepare an agenda. Many bosses don’t – they expect you
to. They see it as your meeting. And
if they are the type of boss that sees it their meeting, with their own
agendas, then request to add your agenda items to theirs.

I like to
send my boss a copy ahead of time so they have a little time to prepare, even
if it’s the same day. But if not, at least bring two copies to the meeting with
you. It helps put you in the driver’s seat, and from a practical standpoint,
gives your boss something to take notes on, put in your file, and refer to for
your next meeting.

3. Keep your boss appropriately
“appropriately”, I mean a very succinct, high level summary of all of the key
things you have been working on. This is your boss’s chance to ask questions,
coach, and reinforce. This is also a chance to highlight your accomplishments.
Hey, if you don’t, no one else will! You can, and should “toot your own horn”
in a very humble, matter-of-fact way.

4. Cliché alert…… if you bring a problem, always bring your recommended solution. If you need a decision made, always
bring your recommended decision. Yes, it’s getting to be a horrible cliché used
by the
Pointy Haired Boss in Dilbert, but alas, it’s true. Yes,
there may be problems in which you really have no clue where to begin (maybe
you’re new in the job), but they really should be the exception.

5. Own up to your mistakes. Read How to be Accountable and Hold Others
. If you
screwed up, make sure your boss hears about it first from you. No surprises, no
finger pointing, and no excuses!

6. Don’t ask your boss to prioritize
your work.
If you’re
swamped and feeling overwhelmed, it’s OK to let your boss know that (again, but
not on a regular basis). However, unless you want to be micromanaged or seen as
incapable of managing your own time and priorities, don’t show up with a list
of projects and ask your boss to rank them.  Better to rank them yourself, and ask your
boss to verify (“I just want to make sure we’re on the same page here as far as
my priorities”).

7. Always come and leave with a
positive attitude.
some will say it’s your boss’s job to pump you up and keep you motivated – and
if you read the post I wrote for bosses, I said it is too. But that doesn’t let
you off the hook – bosses – and coworkers – would much rather work with
competent and positive people. No one
likes a Debbie Downer. As a manager, I’ve had employees that I’ve looked
forward to meeting with and those that made me want to hide under my desk.

8. Make sure you include development
(including career development) as a regular agenda item.
Whether your company or boss requires
one or not, ask your boss to help you create an
individual development plan (IDP). It’s a chance to ask for
feedback (before it’s too late), enlist his/her support in your development,
and demonstrate that you are ambitious, self-aware, and have a desire to
improve. You create the first draft, and then get your bosses input. Bring it
with you to your meetings 3-4 times per year to show progress and keep it

9. Occasionally ask for feedback (read18 Tips for Receiving Feedback first). Sure, again, that should be
your boss’s job to give you feedback, but most don’t, and if they do, they find
it terribly uncomfortable. However, if you ask them for it, you are opening the
door and making it much easier for them. Hey, they may even turn around and ask
you for feedback in return! When that
starts to happen on a regular basis, you’ve got a really good trusting and
supportive relationship.

10. Let your boss know what you need
from them in order to be successful.
assume they know. Not all managers are intuitive, sensitive, or can read your
mind. And some experts suggest that women
don’t ask
as often as they should. If you let them know in a constructive
way, most will do what they can to support you. After all, your success is
their success, and then they get to go home feeling like they did their job as
a manager.

If you do
1-7, then you are more likely to establish a foundation to discuss 8-10 and get
your own needs met.

Follow all 10
tips and you might even help turn your average boss into a great one!