How to Get the Most Out of Meetings with Your Boss
A 1:1 meeting with your supervisor is a precious opportunity. You do not want it to go to waste. You know how long your to-do list is, so you can safely assume your manager's workload is even bigger, especially if it includes supervising multiple people. When you have the rare chance to secure your supervisor's undivided attention, you can get the most out of your 1:1 meeting with a few simple strategies.
Request a 1:1 meeting if you are not getting one
In an ideal world, you and your boss would meet periodically—perhaps on a quarterly or bimonthly basis—to catch up on your goals and discuss your performance. Your annual performance review should not be the only time this happens. But we don't live in an ideal world, and if you aren't getting this type of discussion with your supervisor but want it, then ask for it. Chances are your supervisor will not say no. (And, if they do, then you might want to start looking for a more supportive employment situation.)
Find the right time and place
Managers tend to have their own styles for conducting 1:1 meetings, and your supervisor will likely decide when and where your meeting takes place, but that doesn't mean you can't make strategic suggestions. For instance, if you want to have a mentoring-type discussion about your career prospects at the company, then you probably don't want to schedule your 1:1 for a busy Tuesday morning or the day of the weekly leadership team meeting. (After all, bosses are people, too, and have their own busy stressed-out times.) Friday mornings or afternoons, depending on the flow of your office, tend to be good times for these types of conversations. The pace is a bit slower, and everyone is feeling more reflective about the week just completed.
Similarly, your supervisor's office might not be the right place for the conversation—there is something about a desk in between manager and employee that feels stiff and almost confrontational. Is there a conference room onsite or even a nearby coffee shop that might be more relaxed and suitable?
Know your purpose
Before you attend a 1:1, whether regularly scheduled or not, know your purpose for the meeting. What do you want to achieve? You might want to keep a running list of questions or discussion topics. If you are calling the meeting, come prepared with an agenda and questions to ask. Don't waste time with routine project updates. That type of information can be conveyed in an email or during a team meeting.
Prepare to talk about your goals
Just like a character in a novel or a movie should experience growth over the story arc, so too should every employee. An effective supervisor wants to see you grow as a professional, so it is only reasonable to ask about your goals during a 1:1 meeting. You will want to be prepared to discuss both short- and long-term goals—goals that can be achieved in a matter of months and goals that will take years. Plan to work with your supervisor to ensure any goals you set are "SMART": specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.
Ask for advice, not direction
Sometimes you want direction from your supervisor—just tell me what to do, already! But a 1:1 meeting should not be that time. This should be a conversation in which you are two professionals conversing about the best path forward. You want your manager to recognize how much you have grown, and one of the best ways to do that is by asking the right questions in an attempt to solicit constructive feedback. Asking for advice instead of direction shows you can stand on your own two feet.
Follow-up with a meeting summary
After your 1:1, take the initiative to write a recap of your meeting, including any agreed-upon action items you will pursue. If appropriate, request a follow-up meeting to touch base on your progress. This gives both sides of a 1:1 a chance to ensure they are aligned regarding the discussion and steps forward.
With these tips in mind, you can make the most of any 1:1 meeting with your boss, enriching your relationship and making every interaction more impactful.