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I have recently transitioned from being a contractor for many years for well known companies, to working at a very well known company as a full time employee.

I have always self-managed, and never have had to do 1:1 meetings etc. We are an Agile team in a large software factory. I am completely lost when it comes to 1:1 meetings. I am also new to Agile.

I have been at this job for 3 months, and I meet with my boss once monthly. He says to me “This is your time, what do you want to talk about”...

My first question is : What I am curious about is, how would all of you recommend I maximize the time spent in these monthly, 30 minute, 1:1 meetings?

My second question is : Furthermore, what do those who are considered top performers, generally discuss in these meetings/how do they use the time?

What I am considering is going over what my goals are for the next 4 weeks or other appropriate time interval, then in future meetings, discuss progress on those goals, wins, any challenges and how I am overcoming them….as well as share insights about my day to day work. Anything I talk about/share would be solely focused on me and not other employees.

Very curious to hear feedback. Thank you in advance.

6 Answers 6

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It really depends on what's going on in your work.

If there's nothing negative, I'll say 'liar liar pants on fire' - but jokes aside, I've had 1:1 where we've talked about anything and everything apart from work.

For me in particular, because I'm usually quite vocal about issues and don't need a forum like a 1:1 to raise them, often my 1:1s are quite cruisy affairs.

But generally - if there are any roadblocks in your work - other departments, other people, lack of tools, lack of access - these would be the first things to bring up.

Then if there is anything that is negatively affecting your performance or you feel is negatively affecting your performance - a while ago, my Father-in-law had a cardiac event (66 year old thought he could keep up with twenty-somethings in a spin class and get his heart rate above 200 BPM...) and for that week and a bit, it was very stressful for me and my family - my work did suffer a bit - we talked about it.

If there's any improvements you think could be made - whether it's additional tooling, changes to process etc.

When the manager says 'This is your time' - it really is. Talk about whatever you feel is relevant, if you've already raised anything you would want to (like me) - then sit about talking about Rugby or Football or F1 or whatever floats your boat.

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    to add with my experience re: "we've talked about anything and everything apart from work". I've found this can be a good thing. Building a rapport with my boss made it easier to talk with them about work stuff - since work stuff often carries a critical vibe.
    – aaaaaa
    Jul 4, 2023 at 17:19
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1:1 meetings can be a great asset if done properly but can also be a waste of time otherwise.

My first question is : how would all of you recommend I maximize the time spent in these monthly, 30 minute, 1:1 meetings?

Like you do with every other meeting: Figure out an agenda and goal beforehand, write it down, prioritize it and drive the meeting effectively.

Hint #1: to get started keep a notebook and whenever something happens during the months that may be worth covering in the meeting. Then create the agenda the day before the meeting using your notes.

Hint#2: Try to make mix it up and not just about your direct work. See below for a list of categories.

My second question is : Furthermore, what do those who are considered top performers, generally discuss in these meetings/how do they use the time?

Lot's of things depending on context.

  • Discuss issues and problems (if any). Skill, technical, organizational, relationships, project, etc.
  • Direct feedback on recent wins and losses.
  • Career planning, development, tactical and strategic. What are you areas improvements (both strength and weaknesses) which ones to work on, pick specific actions and metrics, track and refine
  • How are we doing against our goals for the current performance period. If you don't have goals and metrics, this would be a good time to set them.
  • Organizational awareness: what new people have you met, what people should you be meeting, which departments should you be learning more about and how could you do it.
  • State of the company/department/team: morale, business outcomes, culture, etc.
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If you are doing "Agile" you should have a regular meeting with your team, to discuss improvements to how you do your jobs and how you perform. If you are doing Scrum this is called the Retrospective, but you can have a different Agile implementation and a different name. But that is the meeting to discuss all your work related objectives. Your manager should be one level above that and not really in on the intricate details of how your team does its job.

I said should. If that is not the case, you are not doing "Agile". There is no agility without inspection and adaption. I have no real advice for you if you don't do that, because your question loses all its context. It would be like asking "How to be a good driver? We race Formula 1, just not with engines in the cars". Even the most seasoned racecar driver would be like "uh, what? I don't even know where to start here...".

That said, what is the 1:1 about? What can and should you bring up?

Well, all the nitty gritty details of work have already been covered in your other meeting. The 1:1 with your manager is about problems you cannot solve in your team. Or have been "solved" in your team in a way that doesn't make you happy, but could be solved differently on a higher level.

What that would be is up for you to find out; we don't know your company or situation. Anything actionable, that your manager can fix or bring to attention of higher-ups to fix. Anything you need to personally improve outside of your team.

Two tips on what makes managers' (and by extension yours, too) days better:

  • Don't use your manager as a "power up" to counter team decisions. Your team is supposed to work and come to agreements on their own in an agile setting; if everyone that isn't happy with team decisions complains to the manager, that is not only non-constructive, but the manager will be frustrated, because they should not interfere with team decisions, so this is a lose/lose conversation for them.

  • Positive reinforcement. If your manager did something you liked, let them know. If you told them about a problem and they fixed it, let them know it's fixed to your satisfaction. If they hired someone you think is really good, let them know they made a good decision. Talk about positive things, too. It is really nice to hear about positive things in a day full of 1:1s as a manager.

  • You got 30 minutes. There is no need to fill those 30 minutes with something. If your topics cover 20 minutes, great. Done. Don't drag it on. Everybody likes a clean message and an additional break. It also underscores your sincerity once you have a topic that is important to you and takes the full 30 minutes.

If you get noticed as the guy that mostly says something positive or solves their problems in the team, you will not only leave a positive impression, you also get more impact with the points you do have to make once in a while. On the other hand, if you use the 30 minutes to complain about stuff for 30 minutes, it will just be "same same" if you bring up a topic that is really important to you. Pick your battles.


You asked what "high performers" bring up in those meetings. Last time I had them, I considered myself a high performer in a team of mostly high performers. Other teams under the same manager were staffed differently. One thing I found positive about our team was that we found solutions to things that were work related. And we respected team decisions. So most of the time, I really had nothing to discuss. We solved issues in the team every two weeks and we had a Scrum Master that would bring anything to higher management we could not solve in our team alone. So there really weren't many issues for me personally that weren't already handled in a different path.

There were courses and certificates I wanted to take, and that came out of the manager's budget, not the team's. So we talked about that.

Then there were mandatory yearly trainings, where I suggested we could maybe take the test first and be spared from the 2 hour boring training, if we scored 100% anyway. So we talked about that.

We talked about my trainees a bit, but since the supervising authority for them was HR, it was just a rough outline to keep my manager informed.

I think that's it. Otherwise, it was a lot of "Hi, how are you, got anything new? No? Me neither. Nice to see you." You don't need to fill the 30 minutes.

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I worked for a big IT corp for 20 years, both as a manager and as a staff member. 1:1's were a regular (not universal) feature.

A few thoughts:

  1. Especially at first, follow your manager's lead as to what the discussion should involve (yes, I know it's "your meeting", but still).

  2. Always take the high road. Never be seen as complaining, even when you have every right to do so. Always pick out a few people you work with to mention how helpful, cheerful, pleasant, or smart they are. If your manager is at all perceptive, he/she will notice who you didn't mention.

  3. If you have any project you are interested in, bring it up. However...be careful, those ideas can turn into assignments without you realizing it.

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  • Re: 2, I wouldn't count on managers picking up subtle hints. Obviously you shouldn't start blaming people directly, but what you can do is ask for advice on project issues, and let the manager figure out on their own that your coworker is the problem. Jul 8, 2023 at 20:56
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how would all of you recommend I maximize the time spent in these monthly, 30 minute, 1:1 meetings?

Prepare an agenda, and stick to it.

When I was the manager, I used this to help guide the discussion:

  • What you did last week
  • What you plan to do this week
  • What might be blocking/getting in the way of success this week
  • What time off you might be taking this week
  • Anything else I need to hear from you
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You stated that you have been "a contractor for many years" as such you are probably used to setting your own rates and justifying any increases year over year by showing examples of what you did previously.

As such it may be worth having a conversation about:

  • What are your managers/the companies expectations for you.
  • What potential career growth opportunities are available at the company.
  • In short what you need to spent the next 9 months doing to justify/optimize your next performance review and future salary growth.

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