Making the Most of Your Next 1-on-1

“It’s a good time to communicate to your manager what you want and what is important to you.”
Written by Tyler Holmes
August 10, 2021Updated: August 12, 2021

Communication is a two-way street.

It’s the underlying plot in a majority of the films we watch, what we overpay therapists to hear, and the key component in every relationship help book: no positive change comes without communication and setting clear intentions. So why shouldn’t a relationship with your manager abide by the same rules?

Even though 89 percent of people believe that effective communication is extremely important, according to research conducted by Project.co, eight out of 10 people rate their own business’ communication strategies as either average or poor. These problems can lead to lost profits, employee dissatisfaction, high turnover and poor customer service.

So how does an organization bridge that gap and develop an effective strategy to promote growth instead of hinder it? A regularly scheduled one-on-one meeting.

By providing employees and managers the opportunity to ask for feedback, discuss career goals and highlight any staggering issues directly, teams can better align on common business goals and develop short and long-term plans for success.

Built In NYC caught up with Danielle Davidian, senior director of engineering at Happy Money, to gain insight on the importance of building positive relationships with managers and how one-on-one meetings have helped develop her career possibilities.

 

Danielle Davidian
Senior Director, Engineering

First, do you have a structure to your one-on-one meetings?

I’ve found that the structure often depends on where we are in the annual review cycle.

Know when these decisions are made and when it’s relevant to discussion promotion or compensation with your manager. If you don’t know, that’s a great topic for your next one-on-one! In my experience, these conversations go better with a bit of preplanning – the first time you talk about a promotion shouldn’t be the day they have to make a decision. It should be six months earlier. Voice your goals, work with your manager to calibrate appropriately and determine what you need to do in order to reach them. 

Notably, less formal catch ups help build rapport and can make more formal topics such as career development, promotions and compensation easier to discuss. Regardless of the level of formality, I always assume it’s my responsibility to bring topics of discussion: advice for a situation I’m handling, observations or feedback on team dynamics, career goals, etc. And if I want feedback or a sense of whether I’m on the right trajectory to achieve my goals, I’ve found that I get more well-thought-out responses if I give my manager a heads up by sending an email the day or so before.

 

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What role did one-on-one meetings with managers play in helping to grow your career?

Every manager I’ve had has helped grow my career. I see this as a big part of their role. One-on-ones are super important for a variety of reasons. It’s a good time to communicate to your manager what you want and what is important to you. It’s also a good time to give and receive feedback.  

Early in my career, the relationship with my manager at the time got off to a bit of a rough start. He was a new manager and his management style was very challenging for me. I had just left grad school and had a mix of skill levels: very strong in some key areas with some definite areas for development.  

Fortunately, we had monthly one-on-ones and used that time to work out the kinks. I listened to his feedback and gave feedback in return. Looking back on it, the two years he was my manager were a period of significant growth. When I eventually shifted onto another team, he became one of my mentors and is still someone who I catch up with regularly.

Less formal catch ups help build rapport and can make more formal topics easier to discuss.”

 

Overall, how do you build a good a relationship with your manager?

One-on-ones are a great way to start building a relationship with your manager, but there’s more to it than that. First, good relationships are based on trust. My managers know that if they give me something, I’m not going to drop the ball and I’ll escalate when needed. It’s important to keep my manager up to date on the things they need to know, so they’re not surprised by anything that is going on with me or my team.  

Secondly, feedback is good – it helps you grow. Ask for feedback early and often. One of my most frustrating manager relationships was with someone who never had feedback for me; I was always doing a “good job.” While that may have been the case, I wasn’t growing, and that was a problem for me. 

Lastly, to get the support you need, avoid asking open-ended questions about how you should handle a situation; instead, propose a plan. In my experience, a short email describing the situation, how I plan to address it, and a reasonable timeline for when I plan to act gets a quick response if I’m headed in the wrong direction, while still maintaining the ability to act if I get no response from my busy manager. This tactic helps build that ever-important trust.

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