I have had many managers over the years, and they taught me how I want to be as a manager -- either by demonstrating bad behavior or by being stellar role models. And even though I had examples to look up to (or down to), I was a terrible manager at first. I was unnecessarily tough, I was not clear, and I thought I had to act like I knew what I was doing even though I absolutely didn't. 


Now that I have more experience, I can confidently say I'm a pretty good manager now but it didn't come naturally -- I had to read books, attend workshops, and of course ask for advice from anyone I admired -- and then practice, practice, practice what I had heard to see what worked for me.

Here's just some of what I learned along the way, focused on 1-1s, a critical part of a manager's relationship with a direct report:

Effective one-on-ones:

One-on-ones are a great time to focus on your direct report, their projects, and their growth. However, 1-1s can sometimes feel like yet another status meeting or, worse, a complete dang waste of time. You’re a good manager though, and good managers don’t waste time -- they are thoughtful and impactful. The considerations below are meant to add purpose and direction to your 1-1s with your direct reports to make the time effective for their growth. Enjoy!

Overall, all one-on-ones should be:

Scheduling Considerations:

Agenda Considerations:

Consider using one of the following agenda structures for your time together. No one agenda will work perfectly every time, so utilize new structures as needed. This will ensure you’re focusing where you need to and the 1-1s don’t feel repetitive.




How to prepare (and yes, you should prepare):

Ask yourself these questions in advance of your 1-1 with your direct report so you are sure to review the most helpful information:

What are some effective questions to ask?

It's important to ask a range of questions, from day-to-day projects to focus on the here-and-now, performance direction to understand critical thinking skills, and leadership opportunities to ensure growth. Here are a few to start with:




What happens for annual reviews?

Annual reviews are key times for direct reports, but this shouldn’t be the only time performance feedback is being discussed. It’s important to check-in on progress on an ongoing basis so direct reports can adapt to feedback and opportunity areas.

But don't forget good managers are a product of a good working environment:

If you have done everything you can to be a good manager and you feel like you're falling short, even the best 1-1s won't fix it. Here are other things to consider:

Good managers always want to learn more

Below are additional books and resources that can be helpful on your quest to be a good manager.

Ok, that's it:

You now know how I have effective 1-1s with my team. If you already knew all of this, holy heck, that's great. If you found something useful, holy heck, that's great too. If you think I would get value from hearing your perspective on this or if you have questions, you can message me on LinkedIn.