How to Have a Productive 1:1 with Your Manager (6 tips)!


There is a very real benefit to managing your one-on-one meetings well: if you’re consistent and organized with 1:1’s, your manager will give you more autonomy when it comes to making business decisions as well!

In this post I go over my top 6 tips with regards to

  • How you can prepare before the 1:1
  • What to say during the 1:1
  • What to do after the 1:1

Watch it in action

Before phase

4 things you want to do before the meeting:

  1. Lock down a regular time slot on both of your calendars, this shows them you take your professional growth seriously. According to Google re:Work, Radical Candor by Kim Scott, and other workplace research, the sweet spot for 1:1’s should be every week or two, for 30 to 60 minutes
  2. Set clear expectations around the content of these 1:1’s. Are you going to allocate half the time to business and half the time to professional development? Or have a dedicated development session every other week? Doing so ensures your priorities are not sidelined even as work gets busier
  3. Let your manager know your communication style. Are you someone like me who prefers direct, unfiltered feedback? Or are you someone who needs a bit more context and a bit more discussion before proceeding on a course of action? This helps the manager communicate in a way that works for you and him specifically
  4. Have 1 document that houses every meeting’s agenda and notes. For me, I use a simple Google Spreadsheet with 4 columns: date, agenda, notes, and action items

Feel free to check out my post on how best to take notes at work!

Pro tip: Embed the document within the 1:1 calendar invite to minimize the friction for both you and your manager. Need to add something at a moment’s notice? The document is just 2 clicks away.

During phase

I use different structures depending on the topic of that session. For business updates, I like to use the “Rose, Thorn, and Bud” method.

The rose 🌹 is simply a win you experienced since the last time you two had a chat. This doesn’t have to be a big win, since the point is to start the meeting on a positive note. For example:

Hi Tim, so remember how I had trouble getting the product team on board with our new narrative? So I took your advice, showed them the results from the A/B tests we ran, and they’re now convinced this is the right messaging for that audience segment.

Bonus points here if you can attribute some of that success to your manager since it shows you’ve listened to and acted on their previous advice.

The thorn 🌵 is a challenge you’ve recently encountered and might need more support on. For example:

The issue now is the Product team needs additional resources to localize their product updates, but our budget is extremely limited. As a potential solution, I was thinking we could ask an internal team to help and in return, we incorporate their content as well.

Note that I threw out a problem and a solution, the solution doesn’t have to be right. It’s meant to open up the topic for discussion and convey you were proactive enough to brainstorm beforehand.

The bud 🌱 is a new idea you have or something you want to learn more about and you want your manager’s input. This could be an experiment you’d like to run on an existing project that could lead to a larger impact, or simply asking how your current work fits into the larger business plan

I found this Rose, Thorn, Bud structure to be great because

It gives a very quick yet comprehensive business update of what you’ve been up to since the last 1:1 meeting and lets your manager know your thoughts moving forward

It provides a sort of seamless transition into your next 1:1!

For example:

I thought about your feedback on the experiment I want to run, and here’s the analysis as a follow up

After phase

Following these meetings, I always try to take 10 minutes to review the notes and make sure I’m not missing anything, as well as list out the action items in order of priority.

I then schedule some time on my calendar between now and the next 1:1 to follow up on the action items I’m responsible for, and for those that can’t be done in a week or two, I just immediately add that to the agenda for next week to remind myself to simply give a progress update.

Pro tip - If you notice your manager forgot to follow up on an action item, you want to send them a reminder a few days before your next meeting

This is a great way to get their help, and you’re also letting them know that you’re on top of your stuff and should be considered for that raise 🤑

As a quick recap

  • Before the meeting you want to align with your manager the cadence, format, and content of your 1:1’s and you want to maintain a document that captures takeaways and action items
  • During the meeting, use the Rose, Thorn, and Bud method for business updates since it helps you present your achievements in a concise and structured way
  • After the meeting, follow up by holding both yourself and your manager accountable

Now that you have proven your worth with these tips

Get ready for your next raise and promotion with my Succeed in the Workplace playlist.