We’ve all been in those meetings that could have been an email. It’s easy to get sucked into a cadence of long and frequent meetings. So much so, that large tech companies, like Shopify, have even done away with large meetings and have implemented meeting-free days.
But there’s one meeting that should always be on your calendar–and that’s regular 1:1 meetings with your manager. These check-ins are critical for discussing progress, receiving feedback, and setting goals, so you and your manager are aligned.
So let’s cover some best practices and go over some 1:1 meeting templates so you can make the most of these important conversations.
Here are advice to make sure you’re having productive 1:1 meetings with your manager.
It’s easy for conversations to get derailed. An agenda can ensure you cover all the important points and stay on track.
For the most part, you should be responsible for setting the agenda for a 1:1 meeting with your manager. But make sure to share your agenda with your manager in advance so that they have time to add items and prepare as well. You should aim to stick to the same agenda each week, so that you can get into a routine and your manager knows what to expect. See below for examples of 1:1 meeting templates you can leverage.
Don’t leave scheduling 1:1 meetings to the last minute. They can easily fall off your plate or get missed, especially during busy times and remote teams.
When you set 1:1s as a recurring meeting in your calendar, it helps ensure these meetings never get de-prioritized. As a general rule of thumb, you should avoid canceling 1:1s so there is always a regular touchpoint.
1:1s with your manager aren’t just for providing work updates. Whether it’s every 1:1 or at least every few meetings, you should take the time to discuss your career goals and learning and development. You may even want to carve out more time for these meetings - for example, the last meeting of every month is 1 hour instead of 30 minutes. That way, you'll have enough time to go deep on conversation around development and set plans together for you both to invest in your progression.
Many employees get into the trap of leaving 1:1 planning and direction to their manager. But 1:1s are for you. To get the most out of your 1:1s, in addition to setting the agenda, you should lead the conversation. This is your opportunity to manage up, so be sure you're covering everything that matters to you and is important for your success. For example, this is a good opportunity to bring up capacity constraints, competing priorities, burnout, blockers, how your manager can better support, etc.
Being proactive also shows you're invested in your role and committed to achieving your goals.
A 1:1 meeting template can help you stay on track and make it easier to create an agenda for every check-in. Here are 2 templates you can try using during your 1:1 meetings with your manager.
Great for regular check-ins or when time is limited.
Personal check-ins (5 minutes) | A brief opportunity to build and maintain your relationship beyond work. Consider this a segue into the meeting. If comfortable, this can also be a good opportunity to share things going on outside of your role that may be impacting your capacity or focus.
Project update + dashboard review (8 minutes) | Review what you’re currently working on. Are there any challenges? Blockers? Learnings? Wins?
Rather than sharing a laundry list of activities, think about what your manager needs to know in this meeting to (a) feel in the loop and (b) be able to effectively support you.
It's also great practice, in most roles in tech, to anchor these conversations around a dashboard so that you can be insights driven during these meetings. For example, if you work in a BizOps role on the Marketplace team at Uber, you'll likely have (or build!) a marketplace dashboard that showcases supply and demand health and key trends across cities. If you work in a Sales role, you'll likely want to showcase sales funnel and target achievement metrics. If you work in a marketing role, you might review ad spend, results by channel, including core metrics like LTV/CAC. Save topics that require a deeper dive (eg. quarterly strategic plans or retros) for more focused meetings. This meeting should be more of a pulse check.
Go-forward recommendations + plan (10 minutes) | Beyond a metrics review, use this time to add color to the conversation and share recommendations on how (a) where you'll be spending your time and (b) any changes you'd like to make going forward - in order to achieve your business goals. Based on your learnings and focus areas, is there anything you need support with? Are there any questions or concerns you’d like to discuss?
Questions + pulse check (5 minutes) | Are there any questions or concerns you'd like to discuss? This might be about your role, or could relate to the company more broadly - for example, has there been a recent change in leadership? Use this opportunity to share any concerns you have. Is there a project you'd love to work on? Use this time to advocate for yourself.
It's also a great practice to proactively discuss things like: time off, burnout, and capacity. You could list these items in your agenda and provide a combination of short text-based and color-coded update. For example: Time Off: Nov 13 - 17 (5 Days) | Capacity: Red | Burnout: Green
Action items and key takeaways (2 minutes) | Review all action items from the meeting, to make sure you and your manager are on the same page.
Great for quarterly check-ins
Personal check-ins (5 minutes) | A brief opportunity to build and maintain your relationship beyond work. Consider this a segue into the meeting.
Performance review and feedback (10 minutes) | Review performance metrics, KPIs, and anything else that you’re evaluated on. Good practice is for you to complete a self-evaluation pre-meeting and your manager to conduct their own independent review of you pre-meeting. You can document these in an PDP (personal development plan) and walk through both of your evaluations during the meeting live. This helps you collectively understand gaps in your evaluation so that there are no surprises during formal performance review cycles, and helps you narrow where to focus next.
Career and professional goals (10 minutes) | Provide an update on your career goals and expectations. This is your opportunity to garner support from your manager on your own goals. While this can be challenging to do, a good prompt is to think about where you want to be 2 roles from now. That way, you can outline your current skillset and the gaps you have to getting there. Understanding this will help you anchor on the type of projects, people and training you should start getting exposure to, and make it easier for you to raise with your manager for support (as they'll understand the full context behind your ask).
Goals and organizational alignment (10 minutes) | Review organizational goals and how they align with your career goals.
Growth and learning opportunities (10 minutes) | Identify opportunities for learning and development to support your career goals. This might include: (a) new projects and responsibilities that enables you to learn on-the-job, (b) exposure to new teams or stakeholders so you can learn by osmosis and mentorship, and/or (c) formal training (like joining a Sprint with The Commons!), so that you can hone specific skills in a hyper targeted way, quickly.
When you outline these opportunities, be sure you (1) prioritize, (2) gain buy-in from your manager, (3) understanding the next steps to make this happen. For example, do they need to get funding approval for formal training? If so, when can you expect them to circle back with you. By setting clear expectations, it makes it easier to manage up and follow up with them later.
Action items and key takeaways (5 minutes) | Review all action items from the meeting, to make sure you and your manager are on the same page.