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Ask HN: Advice on how to have quality, productive 1-1’s with your manager?
68 points by p33p 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 9 comments



1. It's your meeting and you should write the agenda, not your manager. Usually this is 1-3 things you want to tell/discuss with him/her. It can help to keep note of important things that come up during work for you to discuss at the next 1-to-1.

2. Make sure your manager schedules more than 30 mins, ideally an hour. Prefer longer meetings to more frequent meetings, if that's a trade-off. It's important you can get into long or difficult topics. Often you won't need all the time, in which case you can always end the meeting early.

3. Focus on important topics, e.g. career development, rather than "updates", e.g. week done this week.

4. Avoid cancelling meetings; they're primarily for your productivity/happiness. How regularly you have 1-to-1s should depend on how experienced you are at the job and can change over time - probably somewhere between weekly and monthly. At the end of each meeting, try to arrange/confirm the time for the next one.

The book "High-output management" by Andy Grove has a great section on this, and I've found the advice there very helpful over the last few years.


Try to make sure everyone knows the adjenda ahead of time too if possible so everyone is prepared.


Some good answers here. I'd recommend two books:

1. This free O'Reilly book about good 1:1s: https://www.oreilly.com/business/free/files/the-secrets-behi...

2. Rise, by Patty Azzarello, which is about career management in general, but also has important stuff about how to work with managers and peers.


Not directly answering the question, but I just wanted to say that it's a healthy thing to encourage 1-on-1s between people in all sorts of different relationships, not just manager-report.

1-on-1s with your manager are critical because (in many cases) your manager has a big say in your career. But your manager isn't necessarily the best person to have as a mentor. Even if it's not a common occurrence at your company, I'd wager that if you approached the person you thought you could most learn from and asked if they wouldn't mind mentoring you via 1-on-1s, most people would be honored and happy to serve that role.


What can I do to prepare me to get to X (whatever that is for you)? Do you see any areas for improvement? How am I performing against my performance goals?

One on one's are not time to shoot the sh^t. You can do that anytime. A one on one is used to get explicit feedback from your boss, so make it count. You want your boss to know what your goal is and how you are progressing toward the goal; which sets up the conversation for what's going to happen when you make the progress. This is a very transparent way of keeping everyone aligned. If you want a promotion, to hit your bonus target or whatever, there should be no surprises. Use your one on one to you know, a week or two at a time where you are at. It'll help you either get what you want or set the stage for taking your next job elsewhere; no surprises either way.


Bring your own prioritized agenda and go through it. Recommend printed copy to minimize distractions from screens. Having a rapport and chatting about personal stuff is great for building a relationship and trust but keep bringing the conversation back to the agenda until everything has been addressed. You can generally copy/paste these from meeting to meeting and just make the necessary updates/changes so stuff doesn't fall through the cracks. Be sure to include accomplishments - having a history of your 1:1 agendas can be very useful when it comes to review time and needing to remember everything you did for the past year.

Flag problems early on and indicate if/how you need them to intercede/escalate. Green/yellow/red (or whatever scheme you like) indicators can be useful here for "all good", "advising of problem but I have action I'm taking on my own" and "I need your help" at a glance.

Make sure you ask for feedback and be open to both praise and criticism. Try to get some kind of action plan put together for growth/development and keep tabs on how you're addressing it.


I like what I am doing with my current manager, we speak during stand ups and randomly in the office when chatting about life/work, if we see that something requires more attention we grab a room and spend as much time as we need or schedule a meeting asap.

There is no agenda, no planning, but active ongoing conversations. Meetings are about 1 topic and you usually don't need more than 1 thing ready (demo, pen & paper, specs, web browser with jira...). We work completely transparently too, so that helps as we can always check what's up without needing to interrupt each other.

If the company CEO asked to have 1-1 with my manager for 30 minutes randomly, I guess topics would vary, from personal life, career to probably aligning vision of the what we want to build. But most of these stuff is covered in detail in daily routine so no need for 1-1 really.

If he needs to speak about multiple topics he will tell me and if I need anything ready, but this is yet to happen.


Both of you should have read High Output Management, at least the sections related to 1-1s.


1. Understand the big picture.

2. See yourself as a person in pyramid which is a point in the other pyramid's structure.

3. Pay attention to what manager says, that's the interface he wants to see. Those are things he wants you to deliver. He isn't interested in low level hacks you use, those are the things you discuss with your coworkers.

4. If you see some flaw with the interface he laid, point it out. If he is still OK with the flaw and don't want any changes, don't try too hard to change his mind. Simply note it down somewhere, the flaw you had observed and pointed out - in your personal notes.

5. Understand that in the grand scheme of things, he is just a person who checks whether an interface is compliant with big picture, they are just another bishop just as you are.

About the technical stuff you and your colleagues know it best. Manager has to deliver what executives told him to. If the product isn't coming out as the perfection you wanted, that's OK.

Manager is very likely to forget the things you discussed with him so you should keep notes. Otherwise, you might get inquiries like, hey bob! Why you didn't tell this to me?.

And you need to tell him, we had discussed this and concluded that and yes, i did make you aware of this issue. That's it.




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